by Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
The British science journal Nature reported a study today that upends what we thought we knew about the evolution of fingers of toes. The previous theory was that air-breathing animals that had found their way to land were the first to develop primitive fingers, but this new study shows that rudimentary digits actually existed inside the fins of a transitional fish specie (the Panderichthys, pictured).
This discovery didn’t come from a new archeological find, but rather a reexamination of fossils. Recent genetics research suggested that a gene that affects the patterning of hands and feet is present in the modern-day lung fish. This information prompted scientists to have a closer look at the Panderichthys fossils using more advanced techniques. And what they found there were distal radials–stubby bones arranged like four fingers–at the end of the fins of the skeleton.
I’m not sure if I would find this as fascinating if I hadn’t been playing Spore so much lately, but I’d still call this a plus one for evolution!