Discoverers of Nunavut fish fossil hope to net more
American scientists who announced one of the most significant fossil finds in the Arctic have set their sightson the North again,in hopesof finding more discoveries that could further bridge the gap between fish and land animal.
Farish Jenkins Jr., a zoology professor at Harvard University, was one of the researchers who found fossils of a fish-like creature dubbed Tiktaalik roseae in rock taken from southern Ellesmere Island in Nunavut in 2004.
The creature, which lived about 375 million years ago, has both marine and land animal traits. The fossils are believed to represent a long-sought link to the time when animals were first moving out of the primordial ocean and onto land.
Speaking in Iqaluit Wednesday during the Nunavut Mining Symposium, Jenkins said he and his colleagues hope to obtain permission to return to southern Ellesmere Island next year.
"We want to go up a section, higher in the stratographic column, into rocks that are younger in age, to find very possibly the next stage after Tiktaalik," he said.
Jenkins said they are still analyzing the fossils they found before, and have so far identified the parts of at least 10 Tiktaalik, including the first pelvis.
"We're very excited about that because it has features that indicate that this fish had a very robust hind fin, a pelvic fin, and we can't wait to find the femur, the leg bone. It's going to be monstrous," Jenkins said. "This animal could get around on land."
Jenkins estimated the largest Tiktaalik would have measured up to three metres in length.
Jenkins brought a reproduction of the fossil and a prototype of a Tiktaalik, generating attention from people who did not know what to make of it. Some described it as being part fish, part snake or crocodile; others thought it partly resembled a lizard.
"I hunt animals, but I probably wouldn't eat that," Chesterfield Inlet resident Johnny Issaluk said with a chuckle.
Tiktaalik means "large, shallow water fish" in Inuktitut.