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article imageRaising fish to walk on land

By Tim Sandle     Aug 29, 2014 in Science
Researchers have turned to a living fish, called Polypterus, into a fish that can walk on land. This was carried out in order to see what might have happened when fish first attempted to walk out of the water.
Evolutionary biologists have theorized that around 400 million years ago a group of fish began exploring land and evolved into tetrapods -- today's amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. According to The Verge, scientists have attempted to re-create what happened when a fish first walked on land.
By taking the fish Polypterus, researchers have attempted to show wahtt might have happened when fish first attempted to walk out of the water. Polypterus is an African fish that can breathe air, 'walk' on land, and looks much like those ancient fishes that evolved into tetrapods.
For the study, the scientists raised juvenile Polypterus on land for nearly a year, with an aim to revealing how these 'terrestrialized' fish looked and moved differently. The resultant 'walking' fish showed significant anatomical and behavioral changes. The fish walked more effectively by placing their fins closer to their bodies, lifted their heads higher, and kept their fins from slipping as much as fish that were raised in water.
The research team argue that the so-termed "terrestrialized" Polypterus experiment is unique and provides new ideas for how fossil fishes may have used their fins in a terrestrial environment and what evolutionary processes were at play.
The study was carried out by researchers at McGill University. The study was supported by the Canada Research Chairs Program, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Tomlinson Post-doctoral fellowship.
The findings have been published in the journal Nature. The paper is titled "Developmental plasticity and the origin of tetrapods".
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