The Fish That Could Do Push Ups

Long ago, 375 million years to be exact, there swam a small fish swam in a large body of water. This was no ordinary fish, even by the standards of 375 million years ago. This fish had rudimentary wrists.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, what is so special about a fish with a wrist? Understandable considering that most people, myself included, are not experts on fish anatomy. The bones in a fish’s fin do not make up a wrist. What makes this discovery so important? This fish, the Tiktaalik is currently the biggest link between oceanic life and the first animals to walk on land.

Tiktaalik had a flat head similar to alligators as well as a neck. Fish have a more rounded head and do not have a neck because their vertebrae connect their heads and their spines. This anatomical difference was probably the first tip off to archaeologists that this was no ordinary fossil. They were even more excited when they analyzed it further in the laboratory. There they discovered the rudimentary wrist. Having a wrist allowed this fish to be able to push off of surfaces, most likely near the bottom of a shallow area of water. In other words, this fish had the ability to crawl. Although this fish had no lungs, it was still possibly capable of crawling above water, even if it couldn’t survive up there yet. This fish is almost certainly an ancestor of the first beings to crawl out of the water.

Ancient diets allow scientists to speculate on how neighborly Huns were.

To those who don’t know, or don’t know too much about, the Huns were a nomadic tribe. They were a skilled group of warriors under the leadership of Attila the Hun. They travelled very far to the east and took in many different ethnical groups along the way and were considered to be one of the primary causes for the fall of the Roman Empire. Even before the fall of the Roman Empire, they were considered to be ruthless, brutal savages. However, recent studies by Dr. Susanne Hakenbeck and her team have shown they may not have been as hostile as history seems to suggest.

The diet of most Romans at the time consisted mainly of grains and vegetables, while the diet of most Huns was centered around the meat obtained from their herding lifestyle. However, on the eastern border of the Roman Empire, where Romans and Huns lived fairly close together, there was something different occurring. Here, the Romans had incorporated meat into their diet and the Huns were found to have smaller amounts of livestock and grew crops. This indicates that not only did the Huns and Romans share a relatively close amount of space together, but they also shared with each other aspects of each other’s cultures. It also suggests that Huns and other herding communities were very adaptive to their environment. This makes sense, as not only would they need grains to feed themselves, but their horses and other livestock as well.

Dr. Hakenbeck studies the skeletons of 234 individuals from five excavation sites. They were able to find evidence of Huns, like bronze weaponry and most notable the shape of their skulls. Huns had their children’s heads binded the during childhood which caused easy to identify elongated braincases. By taking and comparing measurements of ratios of specific forms of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen in teeth and ribs as well as strontium, Dr. Hackenback was able to find out that the Huns near these Roman sites ate a lot of cultivated plants, meat, and milk and that between 30-50 percent of the skeletons were not raised in the immediate area. This means that 50-70 percent of the people buried in those sites were born and raised there, which could possibly be a sign that Huns were able to recruit some Romans.