From “New Species of Ancient Predatory Fish Discovered” (ScienceDaily, Sep. 12, 2011), we learn:
The Academy of Natural Sciences has announced the discovery of a new species of large predatory fish that prowled ancient North American waterways during the Devonian Period, before backboned animals existed on land.
So far as we know …
The 375-million-year-old beast was discovered by the same group of researchers who discovered Tiktaalik roseae, the important transitional animal considered “a missing link” between fish and the earliest limbed animals. The fossil remains of the new species were found at the same site as Tiktaalik, on Ellesmere Island in the remote Nunavut Territory of Arctic Canada.
Actually, it’s not clear that Tiktaalik is a missing link:
Just when everyone thought that a consensus had emerged, a new fossil find is reported – throwing everything into the melting pot (again!). Trackways of an unknown tetrapod have been recovered from rocks dated 10 million years earlier than Tiktaalik. The authors say that the trackways occur in rocks that: “can be securely assigned to the lower-middle Eifelian, corresponding to an age of approximately 395 million years”. At a stroke, this rules out not only Tiktaalik as a tetrapod ancestor, but also all known representatives of the elpistostegids. The arrival of tetrapods is now considered to be 20 million years earlier than previously thought and these tetrapods must now be regarded as coexisting with the elpistostegids. Once again, the fossil record has thrown up a big surprise, but this one is not “entirely compatible with evolutionary thinking”. It is a find that was not predicted and it does not fit at all into the emerging consensus.
It’s not even clear that “missing link” is a useful concept.
First, only a rigidly Darwinian view of evolution demands that a long, slow, orderly procession of missing links must exist. Why must they? All the evidence points to short periods of rapid change followed by long periods of stasis. Look at all the “earlier than thought” stories we’ve run here at Uncommon Descent!
We really have very few fossils, compared to all the identifiable species that have lived. The obsession with missing links (besides leading to nonsense like Mayor Bloomberg’s Ida fossil) promotes a false history.
It’s somewhat like finding 88 pieces of a five thousand piece-puzzle, for which we don’t have the picture on the front of the box. We search anxiously for border and corner pieces.
We don’t realize that the puzzle is round.
And we never will if we are obsessed with flat borders and corners.