Tiktaalik roseae

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Tiktaalik roseae

During a time in Earth’s history known as the Devonian period, which occurred from 358 to 419 million years ago, land masses that currently make up the Arctic were located just south of the equator. This was due to continental drifting, resulting in a tropical climate.

Image: The fossilized remains of Tiktaalik roseae.

3D View: Tiktaalik roseae
One reconstruction and one fossil of Tiktaalik roseae.

Why this species is important

One creature that lived during this time period was a creature known as Tiktaalik roseae (its scientific name).  Paleontologists refer to this creature as the missing link.  Tiktaalik roseae evolved to have some physical features similar to fish and other features similar to land-based, four-legged, vertebrates.  This fossil is referred to as the transitional link as it is a good indicator of when fish first began evolving into land animals.


The Continental Drift

The Earth is constantly changing.  Over millions of years the planet’s continents have shifted and continue to do so today.  This geological phenomenon is known as the Continental Drift.

Associated with these drifts are specific geological time periods when air temperature and life on Earth was very different than present day.

This interactive image shows how the Earth’s continents have shifted over millions of years.  400 million years ago the Earth’s land masses were close to one another and near the equator.  Around every 100 million years there were major landmass shifts. By 10 million years ago, the Earth’s continents were located in their current positions.

A map of the world showing the continents shifting between 400 and 10 million years ago.
10 million years ago
400 million years ago

A four-legged fish


Tiktaalik roseae has been nicknamed ‘fishapod’.  After scientists had studied this fossil they found that the species had physical traits associated with both fish and four limbed vertebrates, also known as tetrapods. Its fish characteristics include the existence of scales, fins and gills while its tetrapod characteristics include ribs, a neck and lungs.



A new discovery


Tiktaalik roseae was discovered in 2004 on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut and lived in that region 375 million years ago.


The meaning of a name


Tiktaalik roseae is the Inukitut name meaning “burbot,” a cod-like freshwater fish.