A Very Handy Fish Fossil

A Very Handy Fish Fossil


Thanks to Brilliant for supporting this episode
of SciShow. Go to Brilliant.org/SciShow to learn more. [ intro ] Now we all know that there is lot’s of important
infectious disease science happening right now and three cheers for the people doing that
work. So do today for Scishow News, there will be
breaking news, but it will be very, very old. It was during the Late Devonian Period, over360 million years ago, that one group of fish evolved feet from fins, and moved from water to land. This gave rise to a group called the tetrapods, which today includes all amphibians, reptiles,
birds, and mammals — from herons to hippos to humans. A new study published in the journal Nature describes how an ancient fish represents a
crucial stage in that transition. And for scientists interested in understanding how our tetrapod bodies came to be, this new specimen is proving to be very…
handy. It’s called Elpistostege watsoni. It’s not a new species, but this new fossil,
found in Quebec in 2010, is one of the most complete skeletons known
of any early tetrapod relative. See, this grand evolutionary transition is mostly understood through a handful of
Late Devonian animals that blur the line between fish and tetrapods. Some, like Eusthenopteron, are basically fish with very tetrapod-like
features, such as well-developed limb bones. Others, such as the famous four-legged Acanthostega, are considered true early tetrapods that still
have very fishy bodies. But many of these fossils are incomplete, leaving gaps in our understanding of how certain parts of the body changed over
this transition. This new Elpistostege specimen is well preserved
from its head to its tail, but in this study, the researchers were particularly
interested in its front fins. That’s because one of the most important
defining features of true tetrapods is the presence of digits — that is, finger bones. Elpistostege is still fairly fishy, though. And as you might expect from a fish, its front fins ended in thin bony rays. Using an x-ray imaging procedure that provided
a peek at the internal structure of the fins, they found that the bones inside were arranged
very much like the digits in our own hands. It wasn’t quite a hand, but it was basically a fish fin with the bones
of a hand hidden inside! In fact, the researchers say this is the most
tetrapod-like bone arrangement of any fish fin yet studied. This means that Elpistostege sits at a very
important place in our own family tree, a very close cousin of the earliest true tetrapods. And the fact that it had well-developed hand
bones inside a functional fish fin supports the idea that the tetrapod limb developed
in the water. It might be that these bones provided extra strength for fish crawling
around in shallow water, or maybe even for short forays onto land — setting up the ability to move to land more
permanently in its descendants. This new fossil gives us a clearer picture of exactly when and where certain changes
took place along this fish-to-tetrapod transition, which will hopefully guide future fossil research
as well. Meanwhile, another new fossil described in
Nature sheds light on the early evolution of a much
later group of tetrapods: birds! This ancient bird comes from the Late Cretaceous
of Belgium, between 66.7 and 66.8 million years ago, right around the end of the Age of Dinosaurs. The fossil consists of an extremely well-preserved
skull along with some bones of the body, with enough unique features for researchers
to identify it as a new species: Asteriornis maastrichtensis. Based on its anatomy, the paleontologists
classify it as an early cousin of a group of birds called the Galloanserae, which today includes landfowl and waterfowl, including turkeys, chickens, ducks, and geese. In fact, some have dubbed it the Wonderchicken. Its skull has a mixture of landfowl-like and
waterfowl-like features. But beyond that, this identification makes Asteriornis the oldest known member of a /living/ group
of birds. See, while there are lots of fossil birds
known from the Cretaceous Period, they mostly belong to ancient groups that
went extinct along with the rest of the dinosaurs. This means Asteriornis also gives us a very
rare glimpse at the early evolution of modern bird diversity — not only what they looked like, but where
they lived. Much of the diversity of modern birds clusters
in the southern continents, so some scientists have proposed that the early evolution of
modern birds took place in the south. But Asteriornis, being from Belgium, muddies
the picture. One the one hand, this means we might be wrong about where modern
birds got their start. But on the other, now we know that Europe might be a good place
to look for more fossil clues. And while scientists are trying to understand
where these birds lived, they also want to know how they even survived
to the present day. Because we’re not sure why specific lineages did/ make it through the end-Cretaceous extinction. Scientists have suggested that the ancestors
of modern birds may have had a few features that helped them
along: small body size would mean they didn’t need
much food, and a generalized diet would mean they weren’t
picky eaters — both good traits to have in an apocalypse. Asteriornis is indeed a small bird, with an estimated mass under 400 grams. And it was discovered on an ancient shoreline, which means it /might/ have lived a not-very-picky
lifestyle like modern-day shorebirds. Of course, this one fossil doesn’t answer
any of these questions for sure, but — like the new Elpistostege fossil — it gives us a renewed idea of where to look, and what to look for, to find more pieces
of these ancient puzzles. And if you like puzzles, you’re really going
to like Brilliant. Like their course on Calculus in a Nutshell. If you’ve been wondering what an integral
is and what the heck to do with one, wonder no
more. This course takes a bird’s eye view of the
subject, from limits to derivatives. And it shows how everyone from economists
to urban planners use calculus every day. The idea is to help you develop an intuitive
understanding of how calc works, instead of making you memorize a bunch of
formulas with a bunch of Greek letters. So if you’re curious about math, this is
designed to help you learn. And as it happens, the first 200 people to sign up at Brilliant.org/SciShow will get 20% off an annual Premium subscription. We’re not saying it’s something to do
while everyone is stuck inside socially distancing, but we’re not not saying that, either. So check it out and see if it’s right for
you — and thanks for your support. [ outro ]

100 comments on “A Very Handy Fish Fossil

  1. So, they had attributes that allowed them to survive a revelation, huh!🤣🤣🤣🤭🤭🤭

    I know, I know. Even though apocalypse means revelation, you meant the modern connotation.

  2. I love these videos. The list in the top left, with the current topic outlined is so wonderfully structured and easy to follow. I love it.

    Perfect for my autistic brain to follow.

  3. Regarding calculus you mentioned as a side note at the end… I studied engineering after school, I'm now 50 and have worked as an Engineer since graduating. In 30 years of being an engineer I haven't actually used calculus once. I do use algebra and standards but no calculus at all. No matrix algebra or complex numbers either. I suppose it helps understand how all these formulas you pull from standards came about but in reality, that's about all. As a tool its been utterly useless to me. I kind of feel like I spent an awful lot of time and effort learning an awful lot of stuff at uni that was such an utter waste of time. I'm not saying it's pointless but I kind of feel like I was ripped off. Further education isn't cheap and you'd think that what you paying for may actually be in some way useful and or helpful to life after you get a job related to your chosen field of study.
    The only way it would be useful would be if you wanted to get a job teaching at school or university. Perhaps some obscure research job or something like that. But really, for the best part, its utterly useless in the real world for the vast majority of engineers and I think that there are an awful lot of thing that would be a better use of ones time that isn't ever taught at university, well not as an Engineer at any rate.
    With that all said, I don't expect any further education institutions to come back to reality any time soon and will take the lazy route of teaching the same old bumf come hell or high water. So kids, you too will be forced to jump through the burning hoops known as calculus to get that "exciting" engineering degree to get that job after graduating. But rest assured, you won't have to ever use it ever again once you graduate. What a crock .. ….

  4. (Small mistake: Maastricht / st. pietersberg is in the Netherlands, not in Belgium.) <- My mistake, the bird is named after the formation that also has a Belgian area, not the Dutch city. Thanks @Ronen Shtein for correcting me!

  5. Odd, that a fossile, found a very long time ago, in a small town called « Nouvelle », which mean « new » or « NEWS », be talked about only recently in an article… news travels slowly out of that town with such a name.

  6. Good traits to have to try surviving an apocalypse you say? Okay, I will try to achieve small body size while maintaining a diverse diet.

    These birds are chocolate, right?

  7. [and for my next trick]…i am going to poison a dog (but i have the cure, while the audience watches), put it into a pit of water with zero exit, but a tube, on the other end of the tube, will be yet another series of medicine and poison mixed together, barely keeping it alive, if the tube registers a certain amount of activity, an ever increasing toughness of water pits…sequencially follow….

  8. Where do I ask questions? I can't find information on what makes Saliva different from Water! Like, you can lick olive oil off your hands, but you can't rinse it. WHY? Does it have to do with molecular polarity?

  9. so if evolution taught me right….. people that dont eat a lot of pasta and dont need a lot of toiletpaper will survive corona?

  10. You don't even need ancient fossils to see transient fish evolution. Just take a look at the mudskipper and deduce that such adaptations are a natural part of sea-to-land amphibious evolution.

  11. I get more and more confused every day. Are we descendants of fish or apes? (evolutionist here, NOT creationist!)

  12. “A small body size would mean they wouldn’t need much food. And a generalized diet means they wouldn’t be picky eaters. Both good traits to have in an apocalypse.”

    diligently takes notes

  13. How did fish go from getting oxygen from gills to getting it from lungs? I know there’s lung fish but I think they still have gills right?

  14. "Asteriornis maastrichtennis" I believe isn't how you say it, but, Hank, you're sure doing a better job of pronouncing it than me!

  15. "… evolved feet from fins" ?
    OR
    "… evolved fins from feet" ?
    The caption is making some confusions here. 🤣🤣🤣

  16. I suggest you go back to your plastic surgeon and demand your money back! He really really misplaced those nipples. And i think he damaged the capillaries around them because they are looking rather black!

  17. Hello mr creationist I would like to provide you with a transitional species, it’s a fish with bones. Wha what’s that, you don’t believe it, you think it’s fake.

  18. Hippos? Yeah, kinda. Hippos evolved from whales, so fish to land to ocean back to land AFAIK. I'm sure there are more intermediate species. Just being picky.

  19. Hank: one of the most important defining features of true tetrapods is the presence of digits
    snake has left the chat

  20. 0:26

    Guys, I know the emperor's clothes are fantastically beautiful & all BUT, Please, I beg you, say slowly what you're being asked to believe.. 'A fish, Grew Feet, and walked onto land' & it's more believable some how because it took a long time..

    Cards revealed, I'm a Christian believing in design & I get I'll have a bias but surely whether I'm wrong or not, that ain't it chief..

    That being said, that doesn't stop me loving the show

  21. Global warming killed them off Greta told me she warned the Elpistostege Watsoonii to stop farting but they would not listen. You thought she was 16-17 but no she has been a pain in the ass for millions of years and she is still going.

  22. 1: Fishy fishy fish. It is the most elusive fish.
    2: Where is this fishy fishy fish?
    1: It is upon the land with its fisty fishy fins.
    2: Truly it is the most elusive fish!

  23. From what I understand for several articles on Asteriornis is that they used two different methods of assessing its taxonomic place. One placed it as an early member of Galloanserae and the other in a sister group to Galloanserae.

  24. I was with my dad when he discovered the first starfish in the Devonian period. Making it the oldest known starfish by millions of years.

    He cared more about rocks than his kids 🙁

  25. Another missing link that isn't missing anymore. But creationists will keep on lying through their teeth that missing links were never found.

  26. This is still very unconvincing evidence of a transitional fossil. Whether the Tiktaalik or the Elpistostege, many of these fossils could be mosaic forms such as the platypus.

  27. Scientists: So you are a fish with hands
    Fish with hands: Yes me are
    Scientists: But what's your name?
    Fish with hands: Watson I

    And that's how it came to be

  28. Dood you are so good at using your body to attract people's attention, to stay focused on your subject and learn fully. The perfect amount of movement and facial posture to keep us intrigued, yet not so distracting that they forget to listen. Very good. 😀

  29. You folks stay safe please. Not only do I like you all too much to hear bad news about you but your work is getting a lot of us through this home self quarantine with our minds intact.

  30. Yes, isn't it amazing that all living things are created so perfectly, everything ever needed for their survival was given to them. Stop looking for missing links, just because something shares the same trait, doesn't make them relatives. God knew what he was doing! A few syndactyly, or polydactyly still occurs, along with other many genetic "screw ups", but that doesn't change anything, or does it. Maybe scientist in the future, after this world is destroyed, and starts over, will find these deformities and come to other evolutionary conclusions.

  31. I notice there are 6 metacarpals, but 5 carpal. Could this be why some mammals with digits sometimes have 6 instead of 5?

  32. Looks like Star Trek Viyager’s episode Threshold was right, only in reverse. As the pre-Tetrapod looks a lot like what they said we’d evolve INTO, but it should have been FROM…

  33. And then there's the Australian Spotted Handfish, and yes, you read that correctly. HANDfish. Unfortunately they're endangered, but they're basically fishies with handlike fins that are alive NOW. Not just fossils (yet). They're a transitional form, and actually here and now, real. 😀

    EDIT: About the tetrapod bone structure evolving while the creatures were still in water, and what advantage this might have given them: Yeah in that one documentary about Australia from "Nova", we see the handfish using its handfins to push aside reeds and get into a hiding place the bigger fish can't reach…AND outright just grabbing a smaller thing to eat it. (Clumsily, since it has to grab with basically a floppy mitten. But it works.)

    So…why would a water-dwelling fish want tetrapod bones? THAT'S why!

  34. the adult in me is interested and enjoying the video.
    the teenager in me is giggling every time you say piss.
    the anime lover in me — after hearing the name of the wonder chicken — is now imagining tennis-playing chickens with super powers.

  35. Scientist 1: How should we name this new species?
    Drunkard: El… pisto! stieghiee!!
    Scientist 1: Hey… That's not a bad idea…

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