A Bone To Pick: Here’s that intermediate fossil they say doesn’t exist

Atheists and atavists!  Step this way and let me present to you, the Elpistostege, the earliest example of fingers in a transitional fossil!

Cue the creationists: “So what if you found a fossil?  Now you have to find TWO intermediate fossils!”

Fish finger fossils show the beginnings of hands

Researchers have discovered the fossil of a fish with finger-like digits in its fin that lived 380 million years ago, according to a new study. And they believe it bridges the evolutionary gap between marine and land vertebrates as one of the oldest examples of a skeletal pattern resembling a hand.

About 374 million years ago, life on Earth began to transition out of the world’s oceans to walk on land. This gave rise to the tetrapods, or four-limbed vertebrates, that included dinosaurs, land animals and eventually humans. Scientists consider this transition from water to land, and animals acquiring hands and feet, to be one of the most significant events in the history of life on Earth.

But the fossil record about the evolutionary step between marine and land life is sparse. Researchers have focused their efforts on tetrapod-like fish, called elpistostegalians, that lived between 359 and 393 million years ago during the Middle and Late Devonian periods.

Until now, they had never found the complete skeleton of the pectoral fin, also known as the fore-fin. But researchers have discovered one of the most complete elpistostegalian fossils yet: a 5-foot-long fossilized fish in Miguasha, Quebec.


The study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

“Today we announce in the journal Nature our discovery of a complete specimen of a tetrapod-like fish, called Elpistostege, which reveals extraordinary new information about the evolution of the vertebrate hand,” said John Long, study author and Strategic Professor in Palaeontology at Flinders University in Australia.



  1. blf says

    Speaking of interesting fossils, ‘Wonderchicken’: oldest fossil of modern bird discovered :

    Experts have discovered a fossil of the world’s oldest known modern bird — a diminutive creature about half the size of a mallard duck.

    Dubbed the Wonderchicken, the remains were found in rocks dating to about 66.8m to 66.7m years ago, revealing that the bird was active shortly before the asteroid strike that wiped out the dinosaurs 66m years ago.

    “This is the oldest evidence of modern birds that we have so far,” said Dr Daniel Field, of the University of Cambridge, an avian palaeontologist and co-author of the research.


    “As best as we can tell, this fossil sits very close to the common ancestor of two major groups of living birds – the group that eventually gave rise to chickens and their relatives, and the group that eventually gave rise to ducks and their relatives,” Field said.


    Writing in the journal Nature, Field and colleagues describe making the discovery while carrying out CT scans on a specimen donated to Maastricht Natural History Museum. The fossils were unearthed 20 years ago by an amateur fossil hunter at a quarry in Belgium, near the border with the Netherlands, within sedimentary marine rock that is part of the so-called Maastricht Formation.

    At first, said Field, the specimen appeared unprepossessing. “It is basically four small blocks of rock with a handful of broken limb bones visible, poking out of the rock,” he said. However, on digitally “removing” the low-density rock around the fossil using computer software, the team found something special.

    “As soon as I did that, this incredible skull — one of the most incredible fossil bird skulls in the world — stared straight out at us, and we could not believe our eyes,” said Field, noting that the lack of teeth and other features of the skull quickly suggested it was from an early modern bird.

    The team say the bird would have weighed about 400g, about half the size or less of a mallard duck. “It is the same size as a green-winged teal, which is one of the smallest ducks in the entire world,” said Field. “We think it would have had a face that looked a little bit like a modern chicken, and the back of the skull looked a little bit more like a living duck,” he said. Its long slender legs — together with the rocks it was found in — suggest it may have lived along the shoreline.

    The bird’s official name is Asteriornis maastrichtensis, a reference to the place it was found and the Greek goddess of falling stars, Asteria.

    “We thought that that was apropos because the fossil is so close in time to the asteroid impact,” said Field, adding the Greek myth describes Asteria being transformed into a quail and throwing herself into the ocean to avoid Zeus, features that nod both to the animal and the habitat in which it may have lived.