Make way for the fish! Scientists reared 111 walking fish on land to see how they would compare to fish raised in water.
The fish, a species called the Senegal bichir or “dinosaur fish,” were selected as test subjects because of their walking ability; they have functional lungs and strong fins to pull them from one body of water to another. Scientists say this study will give us insight about the evolution of walking.
Fish raised out of the water walked better than those raised in water. They slipped less, raised their head higher and propelled themselves forward more effectively. Lead author Emily Standen called this a “more effective gait.” Their skeletal structure also changed, making it easier for their heads and fins to move around.
“This is the first example we know of that demonstrates developmental plasticity may have facilitated a large-scale evolutionary transition,” Hans Larsson of McGill University said in a press release.
In other words, being raised out of water changed some of the developmental features of the bichir, even though they were genetically similar to the fish raised in water. They changed their structure and behavior based on their environment – to an extent that scientists had never observed before. This discovery will help scientists understand how the first fish to walk out of water 400 million years ago eventually became tetrapods – four footed animals.
Apparently, fish don’t need sunscreen, they need shoes.