Walking Began Underwater, Strolling-Fish Discovery Suggests

The West African lungfish has been found to walk on its fins, according to a new study.

While other fish are known to stroll—and some even have "hands" (pictures)—this is the first time the behavior has been seen in a fish related to the first land-walkers. The find could mean that our ability to walk originated underwater, researchers say.

(Related pictures: "Walking Fish a Model of Evolution in Action.")

In the lungfish, "this ability is surprising, because lungfish don't have feet!" study leader Heather King said via email.

Based on observations of the fish's movements in glass tanks in the lab, the study showed the lungfish were able both to push off a solid surface and move along it using their pelvic fins. (Watch a brief video of the lungfish walking.)

"We found that the lungfish uses a range of gaits, from walking (alternating the limbs) to bounding (moving the limbs synchronously)," said King, a biologist studying at the University of Chicago, who collaborated with past National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration grantee Neil Shubin on the study. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

(Related: "Fossil Fish With Limbs Is Missing Link, Study Says.")

Living Links to Missing Links?

The finding offers new insight into how animals with backbones first hauled themselves from prehistoric seas hundreds of millions of years ago, King said.

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MatthewJames's analysis:
Something smells a little fishy about this...

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