Your Inner Fish – Chapter 1

Finding Your Inner Fish

This chapter touches on how common descent and the fossil record are intertwined.  It spends the majority of the time discussing the actual discovery of Tiktaalik.

Shubin asks this question early in the chapter

How can we visualize events that happened millions and, in many cases, billions of years ago?

That is a very common question when talking to those who are not educated in modern science.  Then he reminds us that 99 percent of all species that ever existed are extinct.  And that the percentage of organisms that have been fossilized is miniscule and that only certain species will ever be fossilized because of where they lived.  It’s a daunting task.  Fortunately, scientists like Shubin didn’t give up or claim it to be impossible.  They went out and did the work.

He then uses an example of a zoo to describe the nested hierarchy of living things.  It should be obvious to even a casual student of science that chimpanzee limbs are very similar to ours.  Indeed, every single terrestrial amphibian, reptile, mammal and bird has exactly the same limb pattern.  One major bone, two lower bones, a wrist, and five fingers.  Isn’t that curious?

Why would every single vertebrate land animal have exactly the same bone structure in the limbs?  It would make sense if every single vertebrate land animal was descended from a common ancestor that had that particular structure.

Here’s the hypothesis:

If all vertebrate land animals descended from a common ancestor that had that limb structure, then we should be able to find that common ancestor in rock of an appropriate age.

Work of other paleontologists have found rocks of about 165 million years old that have fully formed amphibians.  There are no amphibian fossils in any rock so far discovered that are 185 million years old.  There are fully formed bony fish in rocks of that age.

So, next hypothesis:

If there are amphibians at 165 million years ago and no amphibians at 185 million years ago, then we should be able to find the transitional fossil between those two ages.

Fish live in water, mostly salt water.  Amphibians live in water and moist land, usually fresh water.  So the transitional fossil should be in fresh, shallow water.

There are very few exposed rock surfaces on the Earth that are of this age (Devonian for those keeping track) and are of freshwater river deltas and freshwater marshes.  One of those places is Ellesmere Island in the Arctic.

The story of the expeditions and discovery of Tiktaalik is interesting and Shubin really gives you the feeling of being there.

Needless to say that after six years, they found it.  Tiktallik is nearly perfectly intermediate between fish and amphibians.  It has a scales and fins with fin webbing, but the fins contain the standard limb structure of one upper arm bone, two lower arm bones, and a wrist.  It also has a flattened head and neck of a land living creature.

To quote Shubin

It took us six years to find it, but this fossil confirmed a prediction of paleontology: not only was the new fish an intermediate between two different kinds of animal, but we had found it also in the right time period in earth’s history and  in the right ancient environment.  The answer came from 375-million year-old rocks, formed in ancient streams.

There it is.  That’s how science works.  Shubin and his crew weren’t on Ellesmere Island for the fun of it.  They were there because the evidence led them there.  Fortunately, they were able to find that animal.

I will relate on story from Chapter 1.  After all the press releases, Shubin’s son’s preschool teacher asked him to bring Tiktaalik to the class.  So he brought a cast of it and asked them what it was.  The first boy said it was an alligator because of the head and teeth.  ANother child said it was a fish because of the fin and scales.  Another child shouted “Maybe it’s both.”

Even preschoolers can see it.

Tiktallik can tell us a lot about what it is to be human.  It’s the earliest living thing with a neck… so it can turn it’s head and look around independently of its body.  It has a limb structure that is just like humans and horses and everything else.

That’s the lesson of common descent.  The basics of our anatomy were present in fish 375 million years ago.

Click to see the rest of the entries.

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23 Responses to Your Inner Fish – Chapter 1

  1. Pingback: Your Inner Fish – A Chapter-by-Chapter Review | Cassandra's Tears

  2. Joe G says:

    Did you know that tetrapods were found earlier than Tiktaalik meaning Tiki was not wht Shubin et al. were looking for- they were looking in the wrong strata. You don’t go looking for a tansitional form AFTER the transition already occurred.

    Bu I don’t expect you to understand that.

  3. ogremkv says:

    Yes, Joe, everyone knows that amphibians were found earlier than Tiktaalik. First, no one ever said that Tiktaalik was the direct ancestor of all land animals. Second that is a red herring statement that does NOT address the anatomy, which is very transitional.

    Typical creationist, attack a strawman and ignore the actual evidence.

  4. Joe G says:

    I take it that yo didn’t read the part that Shubin said- according to Neil Shubin in his book “Your Inner Fish” he was looking in strata between 385-365 million years old because he thought that tetrapods did not exist before 385 MYA but they did exist after 365 MYA.

    Then along comes another find that put the earliest tetrapods back to over 390 million years ago.

    Shubin was looking in the wrong place and wrong strata.

    IOW I didn’t erect any strawman.

  5. Joe G says:

    Second that is a red herring statement that does NOT address the anatomy, which is very transitional.

    Just because it “looks like” it is? What is the genetic evidence that demonstrates such changes are even possible?

  6. ogremkv says:

    Joe, the date doesn’t actually matter because no one, Shubin included, said that Tiktaalik was the direct ancestor of all amphibians.

    The strawman you are attacking is the date is what’s important, when it’s not. It’s the anatomy that’s important.

    The anatomy is transitional. It’s so transitional that 4-year-olds can see it. Only those blinded by ideology can’t see it.

  7. ogremkv says:

    Own goal. Thanks Joe, for a laugh that truly just made my day.

    You obviously haven’t read Shubin’s book. Where exactly are you getting your quotes from eh? UD? AiG?

    The reason I ask is because Chapter 3 is all about genetics. LOL

    It doesn’t matter to you though. You’ll invent some ridiculous reason that it doesn’t count and you still can’t address the simplest of facts. Evolutionary theory and paleontology were used to predict Tiktaalik and ID and creationism can’t predict jack.

  8. Joe G says:

    Joe, the date doesn’t actually matter because no one, Shubin included, said that Tiktaalik was the direct ancestor of all amphibians.

    Shubin said he was looking for a specific organism, in a specific strata and part of the world- he was looking for the transional between fish and tetrapods- that is according to the book. It is all laid out in the first chapter.

    Strange that you cannot understand that.

  9. Joseph, please don’t try to pretend you understand anything about anything.

    As a little reminder:

    “Hail is made out of water? Are you really that stupid?” Joe G

  10. ogremkv says:

    And he found the specific organism he was looking for in the exact rock layers of the exact age and the exact formation he thought it would be in. (He meaning ‘his team’)

    Tiktaalik is transitional between fish and amphibians. Hey, guess what Chimpanzees are transitional between gorillas and humans. Lung fish are transitional between fish and tetrapods… and they are still around too. How fascinating.

    We’re talking about anatomy here, not direct relationships. Anyone who thinks this is about direct relationships from ancestor to offspring is a creationist. No biologist or paleontologist thinks that any fossil organism is on a direct path of any lineage.

    The mere fact that Tiktaalic exists puts lie to the creationist claim that no transitional fossils exist. It also puts lie to the claim that no one knows how certain groups came into existence. It puts a big ole nail in the coffin of special creation too.

    It’s not strange that you cannot understand that. You are steeped in your own personal bias and cannot fairly evaluate any data that you think doesn’t support your opinion. Much like all of those sock-puppets of yours that claim you won our little debate, when you didn’t address any of the issues I raised and your entire argument was basically copied and pasted from UD.

    BTW: You must not have read the book, because the genetics are pretty damning to the creationist case. I’ll be posting about chapter 3 soon enough.

  11. ogremkv says:

    Here you go Joe. This has been discussed at length previously. Here’s a link, feel free to ignore it because it doesn’t say what you want it to: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/01/casey_luskin_embarrasses_himse.php

  12. Joe G says:

    And he found the specific organism he was looking for in the exact rock layers of the exact age and the exact formation he thought it would be in.

    Wrong- he was looking in that strata because he thought the transional would be found there because he thought there were not any tetrapods older than 385 million years and he knew they existed around 365 million years ago.

    He did what he thought was right- bracket the dates. Yet the new data, had he known about it before he went looking, would have told him he needed to look at strata older than 395 million years.

    BTW: You must not have read the book, because the genetics are pretty damning to the creationist case.

    I read it and it doesn’t provide any data that the transformations required are even possible.

    If he had such data he would be busy mutating fish embryos to get them to develop robust wrist bones.

    As for that link- I have read it and they don’t get it either- he was looking for a specific organism in a specific strata because it wasn’t supposed to exist yet. Had he known about the find in Poland before he went he would have said forget about it we were going to the wrong place.

  13. ogremkv says:

    And yet, the genetic transformations are discussed in the first couple of pages of chapter 3. Interesting. Again, just wait for the Chapter 3 post, then you can argue about all the issues you think exist in the genetics then.

    If he had such data he would be busy mutating fish embryos to get them to develop robust wrist bones.

    This is among the stupidest things you’ve ever said. Basically, you think that because science can’t do in one generation of an organism what it took evolution 5 million years to do, that evolution is wrong. Only creationists think this is a valid objection. Only creationists even think that this is what is required.

    You read, but you still don’t get it. Tiktaalik is not the common ancestor of all vertebrate tetrapods. No one claimed that it was… ever.

    Yet it is still a transitional fossil. That is it has some characteristics of fish and some characteristics of amphibians. How about learning about what you are arguing for an against… oh wait, I forget who I’m talking to. Nevermind.

  14. Joe G says:

    I will have a copy back in my hands on Monday. He doesn’t even know hat genes were involved to take a fish fin and evolve the robust wrist structure ot tiktaalik.

    And yes, through mutagenesis they should be able to mutate fish embryos and keep selecting and mutating until they get something resemebling a land animal. hey should be able to do this in shor order as they are controling it.

    And if they cannot do such a thing then what good is the “theory”? It would have absolutely no practical value at all.

    But anyway you miss my point, as usual. Shubin states, in the book, that he was looking in a specific place and strata because there wasn’t (at the time) any evidenc for tetrapods earlier than 385 million years ago and there was evidence for tetrapods 365 million years ago.

    Had Shubin had the data from Poland before he went looking he would have changed his plans as what he was looking for would be in a different place and a different strata.

    That is all I am saying. But obviously you have too many issues to grasp that.

  15. Joe G says:

    Much like all of those sock-puppets of yours that claim you won our little debate, when you didn’t address any of the issues I raised and your entire argument was basically copied and pasted from UD.

    No sockpuppets and all IDists every where say I won the debate. YOU failed to provide a definition of “evolution”. I provied accepted definitions of evolution from evolutionary experts plus the ID leadership to support my claims. Mine was clear and to the point. You didn’t even address the question of the debate with anything but your say-so.

    The “issues” you raised were all strawmen. Your “argument” was cut and pasted from trial of all things.

  16. ogremkv says:

    Joe, you really need to reread the book then. I’ll check my copy, but I believe it was on THE SECOND PAGE of Chapter 3 that he tells us exactly which gene controls limb formation.

    Further punishment for creationists comes from the fact that the exact same gene controls limb formation in humans, chickens, flies, and sharks. Common descent much?

    Oh, now we’re talking about multiple genertions of mutating and selecting. OK, do you have a grant for a project that could take 5 million years? Talk about a cushy job. You’re requirement still makes no sense.

    And, no I didn’t “miss your point”. I know exactly what your point is. There is, probably, a fossil that has the exact same traits as Tiktaalik that’s 5-10 million years younger. So what?

    It doesn’t change the fact that you have so far refused to address and that is Tiktaalik is transitional.

  17. ogremkv says:

    Yes, Joe, about 15% of my argument was based on a trial, where people are required, by law, to tell the truth. Or did Behe lie to a court of law while talking about ID?

    You totally forgot about the rest of the argument. Where Dembski, and Meyer, and even the definition of ID from your favorite home-away-from-home Uncommon Descent expressly state that ID is against evolution.

    I didn’t have to provide a definition of evolution. That wouldn’t have anything to do with the debate. Further, I only used pro-Intelligent Design websites and authors (except for the court transcripts).

  18. Rose says:

    Joe: “…all IDists every where say I won the debate”

    Really Joe? All IDists? Everywhere? How many people is that exactly? What are their names, addresses, and phone numbers? I’d just like to check your claim. You don’t have a problem with that, do you?

  19. Wolfhound says:

    If we can figure out exactly how many sockpuppets he’s created, we can come up with a number for “all IDists” who say he won the debate.

  20. I.Y. the Science Guy says:

    Dude, Joe G, no offense, but you are really stubborn. I read this book and I think you are just being difficult. I am a high school student and even I can see you are just totally pulling some stuff out from between your buttcheeks.
    “If he had such data he would be busy mutating fish embryos to get them to develop robust wrist bones.”
    WTF was that?

  21. I.Y. the Science Guy says:

    BTW very interesting book, and good job on summaries. I can tell you are really intruiged by this, as you must have spent some time with this.

  22. OgreMkV says:

    Thanks. It’s kind of a pain to do it this way. I could read the book in a few hours, but sitting down to read it carefully and think about the important points, etc. really takes a while.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. 1 more chapter to go and I’ve ordered another book to do summaries for as well.

  23. uiloui says:

    btw you did a good job on the summaries, really shed some light.

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