Sunday, July 21, 2024

Is this fish all wrong?


When in 2004 a group of paleontologists discovered the first fossils of the Tiktaalik, a fish that lived about 375 million years ago and is considered one of the first animals to pave the way for terrestrial vertebrates (ourselves included), it didn’t occur to them that a few years later it would become famous thanks to a series of memes online.

Somewhat as a joke, depending on the situation, in memes circulating online, many do not forgive Tiktaalik for their access to emerging lands, which made the subsequent developments that led to the world as we know it today possible. Paradoxically, the appearance of the huge mass of water that covered the earth is the spark that millions of years later would have brought to the pains of human existence, attributing in short a great responsibility for the problems of contemporary life of people, from the rent of labor. The story of the fish and its riches recently said from The New York Times.

Part of the success of Tiktaalik memes undoubtedly stems from the graphic that explained the discovery a few years ago. It was created in 2006 by designer Zina Deretsky on behalf of the National Science Foundation (NSF), a US government agency that promotes and supports basic research in sectors unrelated to medicine. It was Deretsky pulled it A specimen of Tiktaalik is about to leave the water to venture onto land, using limbs resembling a cross between the fins of classic fish and the legs of tetrapods, vertebrates with four limbs. In the drawing it looked as if the gritty fish hinted at a smile, as if sensing the evolutionary scope of those first steps out of the water.

Zina Dertsky (National Science Foundation)

Besides the news about the fossil discovery, the design was chosen to illustrate many newspaper articles and news reports, and it became particularly popular on the Internet. Dirtsky’s illustration was later included in many textbooks, as an example of a transitional (i.e., transient) form between fish and early tetrapods in the Late Denovian, the fourth of the six periods into which the Paleozoic is traditionally divided.

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The fossils of a dozen Tiktaalik specimens have been discovered in Nunavut, an area in Canada that lies largely above the Arctic Circle. The research team, who will then detail the findings in two education Published in 2006 in the scientific journal temper nature, had approached the Inuit Senate in the area to involve them in choosing the name to give the newly discovered fish. He suggested using the word Tiktaalik which is used to describe burbota fish that lives in shallow water.

The discovery was widely resumed because, unlike other fossils, the Tiktaalik fossils clearly showed the presence of legs, albeit very primitive, such as indicating a transitional stage from aquatic to terrestrial life. In the following years, the discovery of other fossils helped form a clearer idea of ​​the characteristics of this animal. The analyzes made it possible to reconstruct Tiktaalik’s anatomy and conclude that he used four limbs to get out of the water, without having to crawl as much on land as other animals of the period, which began exploring land for shortly before returning to the water.

Tiktaalik fossil preserved in the Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels, Belgium (Wikimedia)

The front fins were too asymmetric This allowed the Tiktaalik to flex on them, and perhaps in this way they were able to move better on the ground. Paleontologists say these fish emerged from the shallow waters in which they lived, although we still don’t know exactly what prompted them to do so. It is also possible that they did not leave the water completely, but remained on the shore, and partly appeared as shown in Dertsky’s drawing.

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In the late Denovian period, the climate in many parts of the Earth was temperate and life in large bodies of water was quite flowering. It was a period when different types of vertebrates began to emerge from the water, with causally evolving in favor of specimens that gradually developed locomotion systems better suited to moving on land. The first species moved in a funny and distinctive way, from an element that had been inhabited for millions of years and that made life possible.

other fish like Panderichthys rhombolepis They are considered transitional forms between fish and amphibians, but today Tiktaalik appears to be among the best candidates for returning to the first ancestor of most of the extinct and still extant tetrapods, including humans. In the future, the discovery of specimens smaller than those found so far may provide new details about Tiktaaliks, the way they lived and their potential ability to undergo metamorphosis as happens to many amphibians. However, it is difficult to find the fossils of small specimens, precisely because their bones were not fully formed.

According to the site Know your memewhich tracks memes and their progression over time, one of the oldest uses of Tiktaalik illustration back to back Ten years after its publication. Posted in mid-December 2018 on Reddit for humorous content about the tendency of tetrapods to exploit many of the Earth’s resources as soon as the opportunity arises.

Earth: Come here / Tetrapods: I can’t, I’m busy defending my place and fighting for food / Earth: Terrestrial vertebrates haven’t evolved to exploit my resources / Tetrapods:

The design was later adopted by many other users, who made other memes, and always kept the same setting. Ironically, Tiktaalik is responsible for most of the wrong things in the world today, simply because he dared to start occupying the Earth’s vertebrates.

One day, this idiot fish decided to get out of the water and now I have to go to work and pay the rent

I would have stayed with my ass in the primal soup if I had known there would be days like these

In the Denovian, the Earth was very different from what we know today. The emerging lands were part of Pangea, a supercontinent that only 180 million years ago began splitting into smaller continents, a process that would lead to the current situation with oceans and large masses of land.

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Of course, Tiktaalik had no idea the implications of the first out-of-water expeditions. A mixture of chance and circumstances, now favorable, and now opposite, drives much of the development, and it will certainly not be by re-Tiktaalik that all problems will be resolved. There are still many things to discover about the first animals that began to move on Earth, but it is certainly thanks to them that memes exist today.


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