Humans evolved from fish into two-legged species

October 7th, 2011 - 12:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Oct 7 (IANS) Three Australian species of fish, including the iconic lungfish, provide an insight into how human beings evolved from these creatures, according to latest research.

A team led by Peter Currie and Nicholas Cole from Monash and Sydney universities respectively have discovered how the muscles controlling the pelvic fins of some fish have cleared the way for the evolution of back legs in higher animals.

This innovation gave rise to the four-legged creatures, along with our distant ancestors who made the first steps onto land some 400 million years ago, the journal Public Library of Science Biology reports.

The genetics of a fish are not vastly different to our own, Currie said.

“We have shown that the mechanism of pelvic muscle formation in bony fish is transitional between that in sharks and in our tetrapod (four-legged) ancestors,” he said, according to a Monash statement.

“By examining the way the different fish species generated the muscles of their pelvic fins, we were able to uncover the evolutionary forerunners of the hind limbs. Humans are just modified fish,” said Currie.

Scientists have long known that the ancient lungfish species are the ancestors of the tetrapods. These fish could survive on land, breathing air and using their pelvic fins to propel themselves.

Australia is home to three species of the few remaining lungfish - two marine species and one inhabiting Queensland’s Mary River basin.

There have been big gaps in the knowledge of these fish until now. Most of the conclusions have been drawn from fossil skeletons, but the muscles critical to locomotion cannot be preserved in the fossil record.

The scientists used fish living today to trace the evolution of pelvic fin muscles to find out how the load bearing hind limbs of the tetrapods evolved.

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