Tiktaalik: Bridging the Gap Between Water and Land

Tiktaalik is a transition fossil that bridges the gap between water and land in our evolutionary history. Its discovery sparked both excitement and controversy.


From the article:

This description isn’t out of place in articles geared towards the general public, but it isn’t scientifically accurate. We can’t know if Tiktaalik had any [descendcants], or if that species was a direct ancestor of any living species. Fossils can’t tell us that. Tiktaalik could very well have been an offshoot of the lineage that led to us.

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This may seem like a bit of a nit pick, but I think it offers a path for better understanding of the theory of evolution itself.

First, a word from Darwin:

Wikipedia also has a great definition for transitional fossil:

According to Darwin, we can still learn about the line of direct ancestry by looking at the offshoots from that direct line. This is why transitional fossils are not defined as being direct ancestors, but simply fossils having a mixture of features from an earlier group of species and a later set of species.

One point that often gets overlooked within this topic is that the only reason we should see gaps between species groups is if evolution and common ancestry is true. If life were separately created then there is no reason that we should see a pattern of shared and derived features that would obviously point to gaps between groups. Separately created kinds could have a nearly endless number of different combinations of characteristics, such as an animal with teats, feathers, flow through lungs, and three middle ear bones. Why not a mixture of bird and mammal features, or a mixture of rodent and dinosaur features? Instead, we see a nested hierarchy, a phylogenetic signal. Only with this pattern will there be gaps, and we only know of one process that would necessarily produce this pattern: evolution.


An important discovery, but this happened in 2004, and was published in 2006. And why wasn’t Neil Shubin even mentioned? Not religious enough?

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I think you meant to phrase that a bit differently. As it is, that sounds far more like special creation than you would consider valid.

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Marine mollusks are an interesting case: most groups have changed little in the tertiary, and their remains tend to get destroyed over time, and so transitional forms between anything above genera are very hard to find.

The extremes on known long-lasting unchanged groups seem to be Lingulidae (inarticulate brachipods), being around since the early Ordovician, and Murchisonellidae (weird tiny snails that aren’t very similar to anything else), being all but unchanged since the Silurian.

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Or perhaps you can ask why wasn’t Farish A. Jenkins Jr mentioned as well? All three of them were part of the original paper (which was linked in the article). I don’t think you need to mention all three of them together all the time and the article doesn’t explicitly just credit Daeshler either. I think you are protesting over something that isn’t necessary but that’s just my opinion of your opinion.

Yes, all three should be mentioned.

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It is common that only the first author of a joint publication is mentioned when telling about a scientific finding, especially when there is more than two authors. A more correct form would be to write Daeschler et al., or Daeschler and co-workers.

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The article in Nature mentions all three.

I don’t think he was involved in the Dover trials, but he was involved in the other stuff. I got to hear him speak at the museum in a program for families. When a little boy asked him if he used chemistry in his research he didn’t talk down to him at all!

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From the article:

  • Daeschler and his team
  • Daeschler and his colleagues
  • Other terms used in the discovery “they” or “the scientists”

What is wrong with this? Again I think it’s petty to pick on the article because of any of these reasons.

Those are all fine. For some reason, those writing about scientific findings are often sloppy. References in scientific journals use the ‘First author et al.’ or other ways to tell that there were several co-authors. Those writing to the greater audience are not so accurate.

Not so wrong. The main problem is that this discovery is really old.

It’s not meant to be “news,” we were doing a dinosaur/fossil month and this particular writer had the privilege of interviewing one of the scientists credited with the discovery so they were hearing about their experience…


I had missed the article, ,but the fussing about the authors inspired me to go back and read it. I thought it was fascinating, as I was not aware that it came in the middle of the Dover trial. As my wife would say, “That was a God thing!”

I also smiled at the Ranger Rick reference. Good stuff to help educate the lay audience, and hopefully that knowledge with protect them from the false claims of others.

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I didn’t realize it was a series. I think you should have mentioned the “Your Inner Fish” book and video.

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We are hopefully doing something with Neil in the future.

It is not a series, and the author chose to write what they chose to write…again. it’s a relationship they had with the other discoverer.


From my experience of writing articles for BioLogos, I found that my editors were great at checking my sources, but I was always grateful that there was no pressure to mention this book or that author. And that is a good thing. The books an author mentions or cites should be reflective their research in writing up the article and not the organisations desire to promote certain authors or drop names.

Gratitude for raising this broader perspective using our fossil gaps that challenge us, yet reminding us that we are connected to this planet and all of creation! A call for “Synodality!”

‘Whether we are looking at climate change and other environmental crises or just trying to understand how we fit into this world, we were made as part of a larger family. We are all in this together.’


The fossil record that reveals transitional stages in the evolution process that ultimately resulted in self-conscious beings capable of having relationships with others and with their creator is, I believe, God ordained. When you consider all the ways that animal and plant remains were preserved through petrification and protection from the elements, It seems clear that the record of evolution was God ordained. They are like a trail of breadcrumbs for scientists and adventurers to follow reaching back to the beginning. As we learn more and more of the universe, its size and majesty, we begin to realize that without consciousness of it, it would have no meaning. In that sense, we partner with God in creation, and He wants us to discover all that we possibly can about the scope and extent of the whole of creation. That is one of our reasons for being.