How Fish Fins Became Fingers

Posted: Aug 18 2016, 3:43am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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How Fish Fins Became Fingers
Markers of the wrists and digits in the limb of a mouse (left) are present in fish and demarcate the fin rays (right). The wrist and digits of tetrapods are the cellular and genetic equivalents of the fin rays of fish. Credit: Shubin Laboratory
  • Researchers discover the Deep Evolutionary Link between Fins and Hands

Researchers seem to have discovered the deep evolutionary link between fins and hands.

Charles Darwin invited his readers to imagine their hands as a curiosity of Nature. The instrumentality of this evolutionary tool for all sorts of purposes was evident.

The hand could be used to hold on to anything. It could serve as a digging tool in case of the mole. The porpoise swims with its paddle which is also like a hand. All the way to the wings of a bat, this single prototypical appendage has so much utility.

The hand has been basic in evolution science. It is constructed according to the same plan in all the animals you see in Nature all the way up to man.

Darwin’s explanation for this unity in diversity was that all these moles, porpoises and bats had a common ancestor. This ancestor slowly evolved limbs with digits.

Different limbs were formed over the passage of time for different tasks and functions. However, the anatomical similarities between all these variegated animals remained as far as those limbs were concerned. The essential kinship could not be erased.

Darwin had his hands tied behind his back as far as the latest state of the art equipment was concerned. In his times, all he could have at most was a rickety microscope.

Today, scientists are carrying on his legacy by using very powerful instruments. They seem to have discovered very many similarities between different organisms.

A group of scientists from the University of Chicago reported recently that our hands bear a strikingly resemblance to the fins of fish, according to NewYorkTimes.

This could help us find out more regarding our ancestors which left the water and moved on to a land-based environment. How they transformed their fins into hands is what the whole story is about.

When we look at a fish fin and a human hand at first glance, we do not notice much similarity. A human hand comes at the end of an arm. A goldfish grows a few appendages that seem to sprout out of its sides.

These differences have puzzled scientists since eons. The ancestor of both humans and fish is the same and it lived 430 million years ago. The fossil record speaks for itself.

A 370 million year old fish termed Tiktaalik had limb-like fins. It lacked any fingers though. The rest of the analysis of ancient fossils and today's tetrapods revealed that the development of the fins and limbs in each followed the same plan.

There are also intermediate fish which were left in the lull and were neither here nor there. The transition was slow and steady yet it was definite.

This study got published in the August 17, 2016 issue of the journal Nature.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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