April 08, 2006

Ooooooh, shiny!

You've no doubt run into reports about the 'missing link' fossil found by paleontologists in northern Canada. Called Tiktaalik roseae, this fish-like predator looked something like a crocodile and could grow to 9 feet long. More importantly, though, Tiktaalik had fins with an elbow joint — a characteristic that allowed it to life itself off the ground and, possibly, walk around on dry land.

It's Tiktaalik!

Tiktaalik fossil [left] and artist's conception of what it looked like. [Graphics: Left, © Ted Daeschler. Right, Shawn Gould, © National Geographic Society]

Tiktaalik is the first fossil that clearly shows a transitional stage between aquatic animals, like fish, and early land animals. Scientists believe it possible that there is a clear line of descent between Tiktaalik and modern land vertebrates, including humans.

All of this is a long-winded prelude for the real shiny thing here: a bunch of cool Tiktaalik art by illustrator Ray Troll.

Darwin & Tiktaalik

Darwin and his pal, Tiktaalik.
[Graphic: © 2006 Ray Troll]

As you can see, Troll's pretty much in a class by himself. He combines a scientist's eye for detail with a wackiness that's made him one of our favorite illustrators. You can see more of his Tiktaalik stuff here.

I first encountered Troll's art in the book Planet Ocean, a book about the 4-billion-year history of life on Earth that Troll did along with writer Brad Matsen. If you've never read it, you should track down a copy immediately. You'll learn a ton about evolution and the fossil record and you'll get to take in Troll's amazing illustrations. [If you can't wait to see the book, Troll has this Planet Ocean feature on his website.]

Posted by Magpie at April 8, 2006 06:38 PM | Shiny Things | Technorati links |