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Missing Link, The

Program Overview


NOVA follows paleontologists as they search for evidence of how humans evolved legs.

The program:

  • surveys 70 years of the search for the first Devonian tetrapod and the fish with legs from which it came.

  • follows one scientist's 1930s discovery of a Greenland fossil that he concluded was the first tetrapod and his unwillingness to let anyone else study it for 48 years.

  • tells of the 1938 finding of a coelocanth and the subsequent reinterpretation of its role as a transitional form.

  • chronicles the discovery of another Greenland tetrapod fossil that was found to have eight digits, not five as expected.

  • explains the findings of two more tetrapods within Pennsylvania sandstone that indicated the end of the Devonian Period was characterized by a diverse environment, not a barren one as previously believed.

  • discusses the process of natural selection whereby limbs evolved, an adaptation that facilitated movement through shallow wetlands.

  • shows the serendipitous nature of several key discoveries, including the rediscovery of a previously catalogued fish jaw that exhibited part fish and part tetrapod features.

Teacher's Guide
Missing Link, The
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