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From the left, Ted Daeschler, Neil Shubin, Josh Miller and Marcus Davis scour the landscape of Canada’s Ellesmere Island for vertebrate fossils.
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Neil Shubin holds a cast of a fossilized fish with limbs, Tiktaalik roseae, near where the remains of the transitional tetrapod were discovered.
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Pictured near where it was found is a Tiktaalik roseae fossil — one of the most complete of the dozens of specimens discovered to date.
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In the Karoo Basin of South Africa, Roger Smith, left, and Neil Shubin inspect a fossil of gorgonopsid, a predator from the Permian period.
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Neil Shubin communes with Thrinaxodon, a reptile-like mammal that’s been found inside burrows very similar to ones built by modern burrowing rodents.
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Neil Shubin holds a fossil of gorgonopsid, a reptile-like mammal that was beginning to show specialized teeth like those of modern-day mammals.
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Roger Smith, left, and Neil Shubin examine a fossil of two juvenile Thrinaxodon — mammal-like reptiles that survived the Permian extinction.
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Michael Berryman, left, and Neil Shubin look at some fossils that shed light on the evolutionary origin of conditions known as ectodermal dysplasias.
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Donald Johanson, left, and Neil Shubin examine a map en route to the Hadar region of Ethiopia, where Johanson found the famous hominid fossil “Lucy.”
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Don Johanson, left, and Neil Shubin discuss the fossilized bones of “Lucy,” a 3.2-million-year-old hominid that was able to walk on two legs.
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Neil Shubin holds a baby macaque monkey. Monkeys of the Macaca genus are used to study brain development in primates — including humans.
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Peter Holland, left, and Neil Shubin hunt off the Florida coast for amphioxus, a wormlike creature used to study the origins of basic human features.
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Neil Shubin sifts sand to look for amphioxi, wormlike creatures that provide evidence for how our brains evolved half a billion years ago.
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Neil Shubin gets up close and personal with a tiny squirrel monkey at Monkey Jungle in Miami, Fla.
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Neil Shubin interacts with a squirrel monkey; our many shared features are evidence of a common ancestor that lived relatively recently.
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Neil Shubin perches in a tree to get a close look at what’s known as the fine branch niche, where our ancient primate ancestors used to live.
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Small primates — like this squirrel monkey shown perching in a tree — use their long fingers and opposable digits to move agilely among the branches.
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This squirrel monkey chows down while perched in what’s called the fine branch niche, home to flowers, fruit, and insects — and our primate ancestors.
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As these squirrel monkeys scurry around in the treetops, the shape of their hands allows them to reach food hanging from the tips of the branches.
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Abigail Tucker, a developmental biologist, studies the way that hair, teeth and scales form during development.
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Evolutionary biologist Karen Sears holds a gray short-tailed opossum. Sears investigates mammalian evolution by studying opossums and other mammals.
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Gray short-tailed opossums have become a common lab animal in recent years. Studying animals like these can illuminate humans' evolutionary history.
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Zhe-Xi Luo, a paleontologist, studies the origin and evolution of mammals by searching for fossils that are almost 200 million years old.
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An animated primate skeleton stands awkwardly. Unlike humans, most primates are unbalanced on two legs because of the shape of their backs.
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This illustration depicts Ferdinand Hayden digging for fossils in Wyoming; he was the first person to discover the ancient primate "Notharctus".
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Neil Shubin and Jay Neitz watch a squirrel monkey take a color vision test. Neitz studies the way that different species of animals see color.
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Paleontologist Tim White is on the team that found "Ardi," a specimen of a hominid species that has reshaped our understanding of human evolution.
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Bruce Latimer, a physical anthropologist, studies human origins and the impact of human evolutionary history on our bodies today.