Check It Out:

Your Inner Fish—the TV Series

April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |



From a reader:

Neil Shubin holds a cast of a fossilized fish with limbs, Tiktaalik roseae, near where the remains of the transitional tetrapod were discovered. Photo:

I watched the first episode of a new three-part science series called Your Inner Fish, which premiered on the PBS TV network on April 9, and highly recommend it to Revolution/ readers. Based on the best-selling book Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin, the show delves in a very engaging way into important ideas about the evolution of life on Earth, with scenes of scientists at work in the field in far-flung corners of the world and in the lab, and great animation that brings alive creatures that lived hundreds of millions of years ago.

Shubin is one of the world's leading paleontologists—scientists who study fossils to learn about how life evolved on our planet—and he specializes in the study of fish. He's also a professor at the University of Chicago, and he recounts how, when he headed up the anatomy department at the school, he would interact with first-year medical students doing dissections of the human body. The students would invariably ask what kind of doctor he was: Are you a surgeon? A cardiologist? When he told those future doctors that he was a fish paleontologist, the students would "give me this look." But, as he explains, the study of ancient fish and other animals provides very good roadmaps to human anatomy. That's because if you look back through our "family tree," not just a few generations but hundreds of millions and even billions of years back, you can trace how humans evolved from the earliest animals that ever walked on land, and even further back to the earliest forms of single-cell living things.

The focus in the first episode in this series is on Tiktaalik, a fish that lived 375 million years ago. What is so special about this creature is that it was an intermediate between fish and land-living animals. It was Shubin and his team that discovered the Tiktaalik fossil in the Canadian Arctic in 2004—which made world headlines when it was announced two years later. The show re-creates the tremendous excitement of this moment of scientific discovery.

Read the full Revolution interview with Neil Shubin at "Neil Shubin: The Quest to Uncover the History of Life on Earth". If you read it when it was first published, it's worth going back to—and if it's new to you, you'll find very interesting discussion about what Tiktaalik brings to light about evolution, including human evolution, and about scientific method.

As Shubin said in an interview with Revolution when his book Your Inner Fish was published in 2008, "Tiktaalik, along with other fossils of lobe-finned fish and amphibians, reveals a critical time in evolution. What we see is how the descendants of fish with fins evolved to inhabit land. This is a big event in the history of the earth and also is a big event in our own history. Many of the features that originally evolved in fish like Tiktaalik are parts of our own bodies and our own history. The neck that is first seen in Tiktaalik is something that became our own neck. The functional wrist in Tiktaalik is something that became our own wrist. This is the general theme of Your Inner Fish. Each of us carries over 3.5 billion years of history inside of us....".

Don't worry if you missed the first episode of Your Inner Fish, the TV series. There are two more episodes to come—you can find air dates/times and watch the episodes online once they air at


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