Tuesday, January 16, 2007


last year they found Tiktaalik up in Nunavut, Canada and since then it’s made its way into museums, Nature, PBS and the Colbert Report. so I’ve really been scooped here. but as the bones have been sleeping in late Devonian sandstone for about 375 million years, 10 months hardly seems an issue anymore. the name was suggested by the locals (Inuit elders) and it means “large shallow-water fish.”

Ted Daeschler, Neil Shubin and Farish Jenkins were the guys who found it there. here's what Ted looks like in his natural habitat as simulated by PBS in the backdrop.

some people have trouble with the name Tiktaalik so there are other catchy things they’ve been calling it. so far, fishapod seems to be catching on the best but I guess we’ll see. there’s a spirited debate on taxonomy, semantics, etymology and the naming of things as applied to ichthyopods on crooked timber. they get into legfish, lungfish, tetrapods and the possibility of organisms with actual fish for feet or even the number 4 attached to the ends of each of thier legs; and how, cladistically speaking, we’re all a bunch of fish.

“Literary comedy and biological evolution share in common the view that all change is conservative. Organisms and comic heroes change their structure or behavior only in order to preserve an accustomed way of life which has been threatened by changes in the environment. The ancient fish that developed lungs when its home in the sea became untenable was not a radical revolutionary, but a public-spirited preserver of his genetic heritage… To evolution and to comedy, nothing is sacred but life itself.”
-Joseph W. Meeker
The Comic Mode

for some great photos and a little text, the University of Chicago has set up a virtual home for Tiktaalik. all of this has catapulted the creature up into the pantheon with archaeopteryx and hobo hamilis.


jo said...

ah, i see you've now joined me and many others in the realm of crazy evolutionary discoveries, tiktaalik being one of the more popular. now the real trick is filling in your own proverbial blanks as you study them. do i sound blantantly pseudoprofound? i hope so. i've been working on it for at least four and a half years.

eped said...

jo, thanks for filling in my proverbial blanks here. it's been a while since anyone has commented. and in the winter there aren't even crickets to break the silence.

(I've been thinking and I still don't know what my proverbial blanks are. maybe we can talk abut it next weekend)

The Mediocre Gatsby said...

I like "fishapod" - but I bet as soon as Steve Jobs finds out about it, they'll have to find another name.

Jon Spencer said...

you misspelled 'their'.

eped said...

you misspelled 'John'
just kidding.

and the tape?