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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

From the "Now what?" Department: How the fish grew its legs?

Must have been a slow news day in Ottawa.
This is a tough one to understand. How could a fish just grow legs? It mystifies us, and so this part of evolutionary theory is a common target for cheap attacks from creationists. Therefore, it's extremely valuable that a scientist has now found a way in which a genetic tweaking makes a zebrafish embryo stop growing fins, and start growing an appendage that looks like a leg. If she can tweak a gene in the lab, maybe one of the many mutations that pop up in nature could do the same.

- Tom Spears, "How the tetrapod got its legs" (June 27, 2010)

Read more here.

Priceless. You can't make this stuff up.

In fairness to journalist Spears, he is properly uncertain about just what has been discovered here, for good reason. "An appendage that looks like a leg" is what, exactly?

It only counts if it acts like a leg. Ask an amputee.

And it better act soon, too, because otherwise the fish is a cripple. What happens when predator fish arrive, as would happen in nature, if not in a lab?

Oh, we did remember to install quills among the gills, didn't we? And a system for making them stand up ...

Obviously, fish moved onto land some time (and do today), but legs are not the point. (If they were, snakes and legless lizards would not exist.) The critical issue is breathing apparatus.


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