Ancient ‘fishapod’ Qikiqtania bravely refused to evolve into land-dweller

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Long before the dinosaurs appeared, when the first forests stretched toward the sky and enormous insects ruled Earth, a humble, shovel-faced fish with particularly strong fins decided to try its luck on dry land. Around the same time, another early land-exploring fish decided terrestrial life was overrated and fled back into the ocean, scientists recently discovered.

The fish that  chose to stay on land was Tiktaalik roseae —  more commonly known as simply Tiktaalik, after an Inuktitut word meaning “large freshwater fish” — and it is considered to be one of the oldest common ancestors of all land-dwelling vertebrates, from dinosaurs to mammals.

With foot-like fins that helped it haul itself out of water and onto shallow riverbanks, Tiktaalik is sometimes called a “fishapod,” or footed fish. AndTiktaalik wasn’t alone on this evolutionary journey. 

A computer scan showing the strange bone structure of Qiqiktania’s fossilized fin. (Image credit: Tom Stewart)

Other fishapods of the time were also evolving the ability to haul themselves onto land — only to turn right around and head back into the water.

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