Their findings have just been published in the research journal Nature. “It forces a radical rethink of what evolution was capable of among the first tetrapods,” said project lead Jason Anderson, a paleontologist and Professor at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM).
Before this study, ancient tetrapods — the ancestors of humans and other modern-day vertebrates — were thought to have evolved very slowly from fish to animals with limbs.
“We used to think that the fin-to-limb transition was a slow evolution to becoming gradually less fish like,” he said. “But Lethiscus shows immediate, and dramatic, evolutionary experimentation. The lineage shrunk in size, and lost limbs almost immediately after they first evolved. It’s like a snake on the outside but a fish on the inside.” Paper. paywall – Jason D. Pardo, Matt Szostakiwskyj, Per E. Ahlberg, Jason S. Anderson. Hidden morphological diversity among early tetrapods. Nature, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nature22966 More.
So design is dead in the water, right? Or …?
See also: What the fossils told us in their own words