Few science stories have delighted me as much as the one that appeared in the New York Times on April 29 (online) and April 30 (print). The story, by Sabrina Imbler, is about an extinct sea creature that may be a missing link between fish and four-legged mammals—a fishapod connection to our very own species.
Tiktaalik roseae illustration by Zina Deretsky for the National Science Foundation, 2006.
The news hook isn’t the creature’s discovery; that happened in 2004, in the Nunavut Territory in the Arctic. Nor is it the animal’s name, Tiktaalik (tic-TAH-lick), which departs from traditional scientific naming conventions—Latinate, possibly honoring a scientist—in that it’s an Inuktitut word that means “large freshwater fish that lives in the shallows.” (The full name, Tiktaalik roseae, does have a Latin component: The second element “cryptically honors an anonymous donor”—someone named Rose, maybe?—according to a Wikipedia entry.) A council of Inuit tribal elders worked with a team of paleontologists to develop the name.*