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Scientists Discover Arms and Legs On 375 Million-Year-Old Fossil: Did Species Have Arms and Legs Before Living On Land?

Jan 13, 2014 03:47 PM EST | By Justin Stock
Science, tikaalik, fossil, evolution
Ancient Fish Facts
Scientists believe early fish species developed rear legs well in advance of living on land.(Photo : Reuters)

Scientists believe offspring of humans and other mammals developed their rear legs well in advance of living on land Live Science reported Monday.

The species could also have been able to strut underwater Live Science reported. The discoveries indicate fish grew body parts prior to living on land Live Science reported.

Scientists studied the bones of Tiktaalik roseae a 375-million-year-old fish, which it found on Ellsmere Island in 2004 Live Science reported. The species has a flat head, and sharp teeth Live Science reported.

The species is a mix between a fish, and a crocodile. It also grew to nine feet or 2.7 meters Live Science reported. It also searched for food in freshwater Live Science reported.

"I was expecting to find a diminutive hind fin and pelvis," Neil Shubin, one of the main authors of the study told LiveScience. "Seeing the whopping pelvis set me back a bit," Shubin told Live Science. "I looked at it again and again, because I was quite surprised." Shubin is also a paleontologist at the University of Chicago.

Tiktaalik's pelvis matched the size of its shoulders, which resembled characteristics on a tetrapod Live Science reported. Tetrapods are species with two limbs according to the online Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

Tiktaalik also had a boundless ball and socket hip joint attached to a versatile femur, similar to the thigh of a tetrapod, and capable of reaching below a species body Live Science reported.

"We had long thought that expanded hind limbs and hips were features of limbed animals," Shubin told Live Science. "Tiktaalik shows that our closest fish relatives had expanded hips and hind fins; hence, this feature may well have arisen in fish," Shubin told Live Science.

Scientists are still trying to figure out how early species used their body parts Live Science reported. "Were they used to walk, swim or both?" Shubin told Live Science.

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