Creationists love to go on about how, despite there being thousands of examples, there are no transitional fossils or “missing links” that can show that evolution occurred in the ancient past. I guess they have to close their eyes, plug their ears, and start humming loudly for a couple of days until this headline gets buried under more recent news …
Chinese paleontologists have reported the discovery of well-preserved fossils of a new flying fish species in Xingyi city, southwest China.
The new species, named Potanichthys xingyiensis, is described in a paper published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
According to paleontologists, P. xingyiensis belongs to a now-extinct family of over-water gliders known as thoracopterids. Fossils of these gliders, which lived in the late Triassic about 200 million years ago, have been found in Italy and Austria. P. xingyiensis is the only glider found in Asia, and is the oldest – it lived between 235 million and 242 million years ago during the Middle Triassic.
Potanichthys was only about 6 inches (15.3 cm) long and had a ‘four-winged’ body plan: a pair of greatly enlarged pectoral fins as ‘primary wings’ and a pair of pelvic fins as ‘auxiliary wings’.
“Potanichthys and the European thoracopterids probably have a common ancestor”, said lead author Dr Guang-Hui Xu of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
“Although the Austrian thoracopterid has scales, the Italian ones lack them entirely. Potanichthys is on the fence: it has just four rows of scales reaching back to its tail, providing a transition or a missing link between them.”
“The discovery of Potanichthys extends the stratigraphic range of the Thoracopteridae from the Late Triassic to the Middle Triassic, and enriches our knowledge of the ecological complexity in the Middle Triassic of the Palaeotethys Ocean after the end-Permian mass extinction around 250 million years ago, in which up to 95 per cent of marine life died,” added co-author Dr Keqing Gao of Peking University.
“This discovery supports the hypothesis that the recovery of marine ecosystems after the end-Permian event was more rapid than previously thought,” he concluded.
One of the interesting elements of the article is that even though the phenomenon of evolution has not been in any doubt for over a century now, findings like these still provide insight into how and where individual species thrived … in this case, after the Permian extinction event.