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Short Film
Great Transitions: The Origin of Tetrapods

Summary

One of the most exciting discoveries in the long history of fossil exploration is Tiktaalik, a creature with a mix of features common to fish and four-legged animals, or tetrapods.

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(Duration: 17 min 11 sec)

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In his book On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin boldly predicted that buried deep in the earth would be creatures with features that were intermediate between those of ancestral and modern groups. At the time no such fossils had been found, and Darwin’s critics immediately seized on that fact to refute the theory of evolution. But since Darwin’s time, many transitional fossils have been discovered, and they provide crucial insights into the origin of key structures and the creatures that possess them.

Starring University of Chicago paleontologist and award-winning author Neil Shubin, the film Great Transitions: The Origin of Tetrapods, provides a first-hand account of the painstaking search for Tiktaalik, a creature with a mix of features common to fish and four-legged animals. What made the discovery of Tiktaalik's fossil so compelling is that it, along with the series of species that existed before and after, illuminates key evolutionary steps in the transition of life from water to land.


Curriculum Connections:

AP (2012–13)

1.A.1.a,b,c,d,e; 1.A.2.a,b,c; 1.A.4.a,b; 1.B.1.a,b; 1.C.1.a,b; 1.C.3.a,b; 1.D.2.a,b; 4.B.3.a,b; 4.B.4.b 


Supporting Materials (4)

Film Guides
The following classroom-ready resources complement Great Transitions: The Origin of Tetrapods, which tells the story of the discovery of Tiktaalik, a creature with features common to fish and four-legged animals, or tetrapods.
Article
This article by Sean B. Carroll tells the story of the search for and discovery of Tiktaalik, an animal with a mix of fish and tetrapod features—a fishapod!  It supplements the short film Great Transitions: The Origin of Tetrapods, starring Neil Shubin.
Click & Learn
The fossils of transitional creatures were key evidence for Darwin’s evolutionary theory, but none had been found when he published On the Origin of Species. Now, there are many examples of such fossils, which clearly show that big evolutionary leaps consist of many smaller steps.
Video Clips
Neil Shubin brought the fossil of Tiktaalik to his daughter’s first grade class to see what the students would make of it.

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DVD

A first-hand account of the painstaking search for Tiktaalik, a creature with a mix of features common to fish and four-legged animals.

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