Scientists led by University of Warsaw paleobiologist Grzegorz Niedz'wiedzki uncovered the fossilized footprints of a four-legged animal in southeastern Poland. Important features of the well-preserved prints are the impressions of digits (meaning the creature had feet) and a “diagonal, coordinated gait impossible for finned creatures.”
“We thought we’d pinned down the origin of limbed tetrapods."
Why a finned creature would be thought to have a gait is, of course, a by-faith element of evolutionary thinking, which postulates that fish-like creatures were the first land-walkers. For that reason, evolutionists previously hailed fossils such as Tiktaalik—a fish-like creature—as representative of the water-to-land transition and a key “missing link.” (Read an example of the evolutionary enthusiasm in Meet Your Ancestor—the Fish that Crawled.)
But the discovery presents a major problem for the evolutionary status of Tiktaalik and similar fossils, which supposedly date back to around 370 to, at most, 380 million years ago. If Tiktaalik represents the earliest adaptation of sea life for land walking, then how was Niedz'wiedzki’s finding—which he calls “an animal with four limbs, unique for true tetrapods”—walking across Poland almost ten million years earlier?
Facing up to the find, other paleontologists have been forced to retract previous praise for Tiktaalik as “the” missing link, instead considering it an evolutionary dead end. “We thought we’d pinned down the origin of limbed tetrapods, [but now w]e have to rethink the whole thing,” explained Cambridge’s Jennifer Clack. Young-earth creationists reject the assumptions that underlie the millions-of-years dates given to the fossils mentioned; in our view, both Tiktaalik and the fossil footprints are from the past 4,500 years or so. Nonetheless, this is one such case where even accepting evolutionary assumptions dethrones an iconic “missing link.”
For more information:
- Tiktaalik and the Fishy Story of Walking Fish (part 1, part 2)
- The fossil record of ‘early’ tetrapods: evidence of a major evolutionary transition?
- Yet another 'missing link' fails to qualify
- Get Answers: Fossils
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