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    Evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin writes:

    "Within each of us — our skeletons, our behavior, and deep within our DNA — lurks our distant past. Make the relevant comparisons and we find that our hands resemble fossil fish fins, our heads are organized like long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genomes look and function like those of worms and bacteria. We unlock our history as we understand more about our DNA, as we compare ourselves to animals living and dead, and as we discover new fossils from around the world. With all of this history in our bodies, we are most definitely not designed 'intelligently.' Our chances of developing certain cancers, hernias, bad backs, injured knees, and even hiccups are the result of the history that we share with fish, worms, and clams."

    "We live in an age of discovery where the classic stories of evolution have become the focus of vigorous new approaches from genetics and developmental biology. Breakthroughs in genetics are beginning to tell us how bodies are built, in essence giving insights into the recipe that builds animals from a single celled egg. Couple these breakthroughs with the remarkable fossil discoveries of the past decade, and we have opportunity to present a new worldview of the human body."

    Shubin startled the world on March 31 with the announcement in the journal Science of the discovery of Tiktaalik, ''a mosaic of primitive fish and derived amphibian". His moment of realization occurred while digging fish bones out of rocks on a snowy July afternoon.

    "While studying 380 million year old rocks in Ellesmere Island, at a latitude of 80 North, I was uncovering one of the key transitional stages in the shift from fish to land living animal. Everybody knows that fish swim with fins and animals that walk on land have legs. I was in the Arctic to learn how this shift happened. The fish I was uncovering had a wrist and fingers. A fish with wrists and fingers? I was immediately struck that this fossil reveals a very deep branch of my evolutionary tree. This is the origin of my wrists and fingers. Huddled in the tent during prolonged Arctic storms, it occurred to me that 3.5 billion years in the history of life are embedded in my own body."

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    Fri, Jan 11, 2008  Permanent link

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