What a Walking Fish Can Teach Us About Human Evolution | Smithsonian.com

Inspiration from MBL Interim Co-Director Neil Shubin's landmark book on vertebrate evolution, Your Inner Fish, plus skate embryos provided to scientist Jeremy Dasen by the MBL Marine Resources Center, have led to an intriguing discovery about the neurological origins of walking -- in the ocean. (See also the article this week in Science magazine.)

By Lorraine Boissoneault

... In other words, some animals may have had the neural pathways necessary for walking even before they lived on land.

Published today in the journal Cell, the new research began with a basic question: how did different motor behaviors evolve or change in various species over time? Author Jeremy Dasen, an associate professor at the NYU Neuroscience Institute, had previously worked on the movement of snakes. He was inspired to look into skates after reading Neil Shubin’s book, Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body, but didn’t really know where to start.

“I had no idea what a skate looked like,” Dasen says. “I’d eaten it in a restaurant before. So I did what everyone does, I went onto Google to find videos of skates.” One of the first things he found was a Youtube video of a clearnose skate engaging in walking behavior. “I was like, wow, that’s really cool! How does it do that?” he says.

Using skates collected by the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Dasen and others endeavored to find out. Read more ...

Source: What a Walking Fish Can Teach Us About Human Evolution | Smithsonian