Your Inner Fish

Tiktaalik Roseae Symbol Analysis

Tiktaalik Roseae Symbol Icon

This fossil fish (named with an Eastern Canadian Inuit word) was found in 2006 in a fossil site off the coast of Canada near the Arctic Circle. Neil Shubin and his team, who discovered the 375-million-year-old fossil (from the Devonian Period), studied its anatomy and discovered that the fish showed primitive “legs” with the same basic bone structure that eventually formed the limbs of land animals and mammals. Tiktaalik also had a flexible neck that allowed it to turn its head without turning its whole body. Both of these anatomical structures, coupled with the fish’s likely lifestyle in shallow stream beds close to land during the crucial time period when land animals started to develop, made Tiktaalik a good candidate for an intermediary stage between fish and land animals.

While popular culture might call Tiktaalik fish a “missing link” between fish and mammals, Shubin actually rejects this term. Firstly, the fish is no longer “missing,” as it has been found, and it is not so much a singular link as one stage that life on Earth went through. Tiktaalik points to the ways that all animals are “linked” by their developmental history – some animals are just farther along on their specific developmental path. Tiktaalik represents the shared ancestry between all land animals, though modern species may look completely unrelated on the surface. Shubin uses the fish as a symbol of what human scientific inquiry can accomplish, making discoveries that change how we think about the history of humanity and all life on Earth.

Tiktaalik Roseae Quotes in Your Inner Fish

The Your Inner Fish quotes below all refer to the symbol of Tiktaalik Roseae. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Similarities Between All Animals Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage Books edition of Your Inner Fish published in 2009.
Chapter 1 Quotes

It took us six years to find it, but this fossil confirmed a prediction of paleontology: not only was the new fish an intermediate between two different kinds of animal, but we had found it also in the right time period in earth's history and in the right ancient environment. The answer came from 375-million-year-old rocks, formed in ancient streams.

Related Characters: Neil Shubin (speaker)
Related Symbols: Tiktaalik Roseae
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
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I can do a similar analysis for the wrists, ribs, ears, and other parts of our skeleton—all these features can be traced back to a fish like this. This fossil is just as much a part of our history as the African hominids, such as Australopithecus afarensis, the famous "Lucy." Seeing Lucy, we can understand our history as highly advanced primates. Seeing Tiktaalik is seeing our history as fish.

Related Characters: Neil Shubin (speaker)
Related Symbols: Tiktaalik Roseae
Page Number: 26-27
Explanation and Analysis:
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Tiktaalik Roseae Symbol Timeline in Your Inner Fish

The timeline below shows where the symbol Tiktaalik Roseae appears in Your Inner Fish. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Finding Your Inner Fish
History of Life  Theme Icon
Understanding Complex Concepts Through Simple Analogies Theme Icon
Scientific Discovery Theme Icon
...name that reflects the Inuit heritage. The Inuit Committee of head elders suggests Siksagiaq or Tiktaalik. Shubin decides on Tiktaalik, which means large freshwater fish. (full context)
Similarities Between All Animals Theme Icon
History of Life  Theme Icon
Tiktaalik’s discovery is a huge news story in 2006, but Shubin is most affected by a... (full context)
Similarities Between All Animals Theme Icon
History of Life  Theme Icon
Tiktaalik shows human’s history as fish the same way that the famous “Lucy” (an early human... (full context)
Chapter 2: Getting A Grip
Similarities Between All Animals Theme Icon
History of Life  Theme Icon
...flat-headed fish that have human style wrists in their fins. One of these fish, another Tiktaalik, seems to have a limb that is part fin and part limb. Tiktaalik would have... (full context)
History of Life  Theme Icon
Scientific Discovery Theme Icon
Now that they have uncovered Tiktaalik’s wrist, Shubin and his team analyze the most likely function of this limb. Due to... (full context)
History of Life  Theme Icon
Understanding Complex Concepts Through Simple Analogies Theme Icon
It is a long journey from Tiktaalik’s “push-ups” to the range of complicated motions and movements humans can do with their wrists.... (full context)
Chapter 3: Handy Genes
Similarities Between All Animals Theme Icon
History of Life  Theme Icon
Understanding Complex Concepts Through Simple Analogies Theme Icon
...hand gives Shubin likely places to look for a switch that allowed an animal like Tiktaalik to start making the bones for a hand instead of a fin. (full context)