I’m an Ape, and I’m Also a Fish

A specimen of Tinirau clackae (top), with a reconstruction of the entire animal (bottom). Modified from Schwartz, 2012.

Humans are hominoids. I know that sounds redundant. Blame anthropologists for a lack of taxonomic imagination. But the fact that I am a hominoid, I believe, is a significant fact. In everyday terms, it means that I am an ape.

Years ago, when my elementary school teachers delineated the tree of life in biology class, apes and humans were kept separate from each other. We belonged in our own group, the Hominidae, and the so-called great apes – orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees – formed another group, the Pongidae. The two groups were thought to have diverged from a common, primitive ape ancestor. But a combination of genetic and fossil discoveries changed this traditional view. Chimpanzees turned out to be our closest living relatives, with gorillas and orangutans on the next proximal branches to the group containing both us and Pan. Our family was not separate from the ape lineage. We are one kind of highly-intelligent, specialized ape.

In an essay published last week, written in response to a piece by evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, anthropologist John Hawks called the statement that we are apes “a canard.” Ape is a vernacular English term, Hawks argues, and therefore the word should only be applied to gibbons, orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees, but not us. To call humans apes, he says, is an act of “Orwellian coercion” meant to debase our cherished and easily-bruised sense of self-importance. We can say that we’re hominoids or hominids – those are appropriate technical terms – but Hawks would rather we leave “ape” well enough alone.

Hawks doesn’t allow comments on his blog, but, thankfully, the discussion spilled over onto Twitter and other blogs. Historian of science John Wilkins articulated a response to Hawks faster than I could. (I have about ten days before the first draft of my next book is due, so I’m a bit slow in keeping up with internet kerfuffles.) There is no impenetrable wall between technical terms and popular usage, or, as Wilkins wrote, “Experts introduce and revise terms that the folk pick up.” Wilkins uses the word “dinosaur”, and the recently-altered meaning of the term, as an example. The anatomist Richard Owen coined “dinosaur” in 1842, and the term trickled out into public understanding to represent big, fierce, and otherwise monstrous prehistoric reptiles. But since the late 1990s, at the very latest, birds have been recognized as dinosaur descendants, and, in a very real sense, are themselves dinosaurs. This altered understanding – in which there are avian and non-avian dinosaurs – is beginning to take hold. Whether born in popular or academic circles, terms change meaning according to our mutating view of Nature.

In the same way, the way we understand what an ape is has changed. A revised evolutionary picture is influencing the way we apply the word. I don’t share Hawks’ frustration over this point. In fact, I think such statements – which seem to fly in the face of what we previously believed to be true – help people ask questions about how organisms are related to each other. Saying “humans are apes” or “birds are dinosaurs” still sounds strange enough that such statements demand evidence and provide opportunities for engagement, in addition to being a reflection of recent revisions to evolutionary trees.

And the words we choose depend upon how specific we wish to be. In an evolutionary context, I am simultaneously an ape, a monkey, a primate, a mammal, a therapsid, a synapsid, an amniote, a tetrapod, and, to pick an arbitrary stopping point that suits this post’s purpose, a fish. You are a fish, too. Now, I typically don’t come home from an afternoon walk and tell my wife “There were so many fish walking around the park. Everyone’s out today” – such a statement would make it sound as if I had slipped into a Ray Troll painting – but, in an evolutionary sense, it still would have been true. Among other things, we’re fish. The term isn’t terribly specific, but it’s not inaccurate, either, as a newly-announced cousin of ours demonstrates.

The origin of the first vertebrates capable of crawling on land was one of the most important events in our evolutionary history. These creatures are known as tetrapods by virtue of having four (tetra) limbs, and a growing number of discoveries has begun to outline how fleshy-finned fish were adapted into the first amphibious vertebrates. Tiktaalik, a roughly 375 million year old “fishapod”, is the most famous of such creatures – the fish bears a suite of transitional features intermediate between those of more archaic fish and the earliest true tetrapods. But Tiktaalik is not alone. Other vertebrates, such as the vaguely salamander-like Ventastega and the flattened Panderichthys, also demonstrate that our bodies, as Neil Shubin so wonderfully articulated in Your Inner Fish, are modified from archaic fishy forms. And University of California, Berkeley paleontologist Brian Swartz has just described another creature relevant to this famous evolutionary event.

Named Tinirau clackae, the fossil creature at the center of Swartz’s study was not an early landlubber. Tinirau was a fully aquatic fish, and a fish quite similar to the iconic, fleshy-finned form Eusthenopteron (a prehistoric fish once believed to have been the starting point for tetrapod evolution). As Swartz points out, though, the relationships of these creatures to the next grade in the evolutionary transition – flattened fish with stouter, more limb-like fins such as Tiktaalik – is not entirely clear. Tinirau adds a little more resolution to the picture.

The six fossils of this fish, originally collected in the 1970s from roughly 387 million year old deposits Nevada, look like bony smears across rock slabs. But, in detail, much of the fish remain intact. The skull, a significant part of the backbone, and several sets of bones which supported the fins of Tinirau are visible in one of the better specimens, designated UCMP 118605. Those fin bones are especially important. Rather than being arrays of splint-like bones – as you can see in a perch, bass, or many other fish – the fin bones correspond to the bones in our own arms. The fins attached to the body by way of a single bone – the equivalent of the humeri in our arms and femora in our legs – and archaic precursors of our lower arm and leg bones can be seen in the collection of fin bones below. Over 380 million years ago, the basic form of our limbs was already in place, albeit in fish which swam through the Devonian sea.

In Swartz’s analysis, Tinirau came out relatively close to Panderichthys and Tiktaalik. While Tinirau probably was not a direct ancestor of either form, the fish still represents the bauplan from which the antecedents of the first true tetrapods evolved. Exactly when the first tetrapod with distinguished fingers and toes evolved, however, is another matter. Two years ago paleontologist Grzegorz Niedźwiedzki and colleagues described 395 million year old tracks from Poland which might have been made by tetrapods with differentiated digits. The tracks predate the earliest known body fossils of such creatures by about 20 million years.

There is more than one possible answer for the discrepancy. Perhaps there is a 20 million year record of early tetrapods that we simply have not uncovered yet. Then again, maybe the tracks were not made by tetrapods at all – impressions and tracks created by invertebrates have often been confused for the footprints of early tetrapods. And Swartz offers another possibility. Coelacanths and lungfish – fleshy-finned fish that are modern cousins of Tinirau – can move their stubby fins in alternating patterns resembling a walk, and modern lungfish which walk over soft sediments are capable of creating the same kinds of tracks Niedźwiedzki and co-authors described. The supposed tetrapod tracks may have been made by more archaic fish which used their fins to walk.

I don’t expect the idea that we are fish to pick up much popular currency. The everyday, paraphyletic meaning of the term is entrenched, and I don’t expect anyone to refer to the salmon in their sushi as a “non-tetrapodomorph fish.” But the idea is still a useful one as we explore our relationship to the rest of life on earth. After all, we share a common ancestry with every other living thing on the planet, and, for a time, our ancestors and kin were snake-like fish with thick fins supported by stacks of bone. The way those fish swam, and walked, through prehistoric seas formed the foundation for the flowering of vertebrate evolution on land, including the later origin of a lonely species of upright ape obsessed with its own beginnings.

References:

Schwartz, B. (2012). A Marine Stem-Tetrapod from the Devonian of Western North America PLoS One : 10.1371/journal.pone.0033683

58 thoughts on “I’m an Ape, and I’m Also a Fish

  1. Brian, I can’t help but think you’ve missed the point. John Hawks is obviously well aware of cladistics and its implications. The point is that just as using “fish” in the monophyletic sense is very seldom useful, and “monkey”, unless preceded by “New World” or “Old World”, is a phenetic (phylogenetically invalid) category, so too does “ape” not necessarily have to refer to all hominoids.

    “Fish” in the traditional sense is a much more useful term not only in everyday conversation, but also in matters of science, than is “fish” in the cladistic sense. By saying that, I’m not denying that humans are indeed fish in the cladistic sense; I’m just saying that redefining the term so that scientists can no longer ever use it to refer only to fish in the traditional sense is a silly idea (not that this is what you’re doing; it seems, however, that this is what the responses have been trying to do with “apes”). It is very often useful to refer to humans in the context of their closest relatives. While I’ve gotten used to using terms like “non-hominin hominoids”, I’m sympathetic to those who think that “apes” is a much more elegant solution.

    None of this is to say that I necessarily agree with Hawks’ position, but I think he makes a good point, which the responses so far don’t seem to have addressed.

  2. Brian, I can’t help but think you’ve missed the point. John Hawks is obviously well aware of cladistics and its implications. The point is that just as using “fish” in the monophyletic sense is very seldom useful, and “monkey”, unless preceded by “New World” or “Old World”, is a phenetic (phylogenetically invalid) category, so too does “ape” not necessarily have to refer to all hominoids.

    “Fish” in the traditional sense is a much more useful term not only in everyday conversation, but also in matters of science, than is “fish” in the cladistic sense. By saying that, I’m not denying that humans are indeed fish in the cladistic sense; I’m just saying that redefining the term so that scientists can no longer ever use it to refer only to fish in the traditional sense is a silly idea (not that this is what you’re doing; it seems, however, that this is what the responses have been trying to do with “apes”). It is very often useful to refer to humans in the context of their closest relatives. While I’ve gotten used to using terms like “non-hominin hominoids”, I’m sympathetic to those who think that “apes” is a much more elegant solution.

    None of this is to say that I necessarily agree with Hawks’ position, but I think he makes a good point, which the responses so far don’t seem to have addressed.

  3. The problem is that people often use the term “ape” as though it were a biological category, with the implication that humans really are separate from other primates.  The same thing happens with “animal”, which is very often used to mean any animal (or vertebrate, or mammal) that is not human. Pointing out that these are biologically incorrect divisions is useful for correcting the misconception that humans are separate from the rest of the living world. So, I think some people are trying to have their cake and eat it too by saying that it’s not a biological term, so it doesn’t matter — when the use of that term is often meant to convey an incorrect idea about biology.

  4. I would simply like to point out that “canard” is duck in French. Hence, saying that humans are apes is a duck. I only mention this in order to illustrate the nonsense inherent in saying that humans aren’t apes.

  5. I was just about to post saying I’m sure Mr Hawks was just pointing out  a minor inaccuracy and he doesn’t *really* believe this stuff when I thought I’d check. The essay begins like this:

    ‘I don’t know why so many people who accept and promote evolution have such a dim view of phylogenetic systematics.
    How else to explain why I so often hear the canard, “Humans are apes”?
    My children can tell what an ape is. I work very hard to tell them why apes are different than monkeys. When they see a chimpanzee in a zoo, and other parents are telling their kids, “Look at the monkey!”, my children say, “That’s not a monkey, it’s an ape!”‘

    Hmmm. Maybe not.

    As for the substance of the matter at hand aren’t two uses of ‘ape’ being conflated? My area of limited specialism is mathematics. Similar triangles. That could cause all sorts of problems.

    I imagine context is key. Sometimes a technically correct use of ‘ape’ is most useful. Sometimes vernacular English is fine. Sometimes there’ll be fertile confusion. Would it be mischievous to suggest that the sort of confusion Mr Hawks argues against is what enabled him to make the distinction to his children?

  6. This is a question of usage, and having just published on the gorilla genome I’ve had to use these terms a lot recently. I think there is a widespread consensus to use ‘monkey’ paraphyletically, just like reptile or fish, so I’m happy to follow that. But there isn’t for ape – in fact I suspect Hawks’ view is in the minority if one includes scientists outside anthropology. So instead we should be guided by practicality. Simply put, I have found it far more practical to be able to refer in non-technical language to the clades or monophyletic groups of apes, great apes and African great apes without having to always add ‘and humans’.

    I can understand why anthropologists might want to reserve terminology for what I and others would call the non-human apes, and there are good practical and taxonomic justifications for other larger-scale paraphyletic terms. So I am not an pure cladist. But the apes are a small closely related group, and it is essential to be able to convey an accurate evolutionary picture of our position within it to a broader audience, for whom terms like Hominoidea and Homininae are meaningless.

    1. True.  I might also add that the taxonomic rationale for these divisions isn’t necessarily the be-all-and-end-all that it seems.  Nor is it set in stone.  The molecular biology of helminths and early chordata is a good example.

  7. What is a fish?
    Is it an aquatic vertebrate? No, if you consider whales aren’t.
    A vertebrate with gill respiration? Neither, what about Amphibians breathing through gill and lungfishes?
    An heteroterm aquatic vertebrate ? No, since teleostean as red tuna can regulate their inner temperature…

    In its current definition, one can only define a fish by the absence of a character (tetrapod limb) and we now understand this doesn’t even work in the past.

    So what is a fish? I’d say it’s an aquatic vertebrate that one species (Homo sapiens) disregard as being too “inferior” to share a taxonomic group with.
    Fish, Apes, Reptiles are words of the past that remained because our science is blinded by its anthropocentrism.

    Worst, using fish, reptile, apes is their current sense is a highway to intelligent design. Because it depicts evolution as goal-oriented: Apes are “not human”, almost failed experiment; Reptiles are “not mammal, nor bird”; fishes failed to settle on land…

    That’s why I think, that if we want to progress, we should either abandon those words or use them and have the modesty to includes ourselves in them.

    1.  “That’s why I think, that if we want to progress, we should either
      abandon those words or use them and have the modesty to includes
      ourselves in them.”

      Not that I necessarily agree with Hawks’ points, but this is what he means by Orwellian. Vernacular language needs to be intuitive and fluid. Changing the language to make any kind of point, scientific, political, or otherwise, is the definition of “Orwellian”. Just because a term has fuzzy borders and no exact definition doesn’t mean it’s not useful. When I go to a restauraunt and order the fish special, I don’t want the waiter to have to ask me if I mean the pork ribs, the steak, or the salmon.

      I’d me more comfortable with “Humans are fish” if the group Pisces hadn’t been abandoned, but simply re-defined to include tetrapods (like Dinosauria is often re-defined to specifically include birds, which is begging the question, but anyway). At least Pisces translates as “fish.” Actinopterygii doesn’t.

      1. I understand your point and acknowledge it would be difficult to order fish or meat at the restaurant.

        However, I sometime wonder if this culinary distinction between “fish” and meat” is not the origin of the strange paradox of people (vegetarians) unwilling to do harm to “animals” ending eating only fishes and eggs as proteins main sources (don’t do fishes suffer? but that’s not the debate, the point is they are not so distinct from us).

        If we had understood our relationship with the fishes earlier, would we had use such a term.

        Anyway, “fish” in your sentence is not incorrect, it designate the meat of a actinopterygian or chondrichthyan. You wouldn’t expect the waiter to come back with a golden fish in its tank either…

        The real problem of the word fish is when it designates a group of animals.
        It denies the diversity of fishes.

        Do you think you are a barbarian? no, well, the ancient Greek defined all non-Greek as such.
        Do you think you are pagan? Well pagan describes everything outside ones religion, so we are almost all pagans.

        It might be Orwellian – at least it did not take us to the Orwellian society – to change the meaning of words, but one must admit
        the sense of words slide “naturally” with their common understanding in
        our culture.

        In the case of fish reptiles, and apes, we have the opportunity, rather than abandoning the words, to shift their understanding to help public understand history of life and structure of its biodiversity. It’s the world we live in. I think it’s important enough to try to educate and raise ourselves past our former errors.

        1.  If the goal really is to help the public understand, why do you think it’ll be helpful to redefine the words being used? I’m all for helping the public understand some of the nuances of evolution, but no redefinition of a word will do that. If I write that there has been a distinct reorganization of the wrist bones in human relative to apes, I’m not suggesting that humans aren’t hominoids or don’t share a common ancestor with apes; I’m simply using the colloquial definition of the term. Had I used “non-hominin hominoids” there, I’d be throwing up a barrier for my audience to traverse.

          Granted, I could just as easily write “relative to other apes”, but even that could be confusing if the audience doesn’t already understand that humans can be classified as apes.

          This whole argument seems like one of pointless semantics, since humans both are and aren’t apes depending on which of the common definitions of the term you’re using, just as humans both are and aren’t animals. I simply agree with Hawks that redefining words in order to make a point, instead of just skipping that step and explaining the point clearly, isn’t the way to change public opinion.

          In my research I take a cladistic approach, and wholeheartedly agree that taxonomy should reflect phylogeny — so much so that I get annoyed when “hominid” is still used to refer to hominins, or when “australopithecines” is still employed. Nevertheless, humans being part of the fish clade and therefore being rightfully called fish is nothing but a good demonstration of the limits of a cladistic viewpoint. Paraphyletic groups are very important to both the lay person and the scientist.

          1. What’s limited about pointing out that we’re basically glorified fish? I think that’s revealing, not limiting!

          2. Joe: the knowledge that we are part of the fish clade hasn’t anything to do with the argument. I’m simply pointing out that insisting that all species descended from fish be called fish does little other than reducing the value of the word fish.

            Again, this is a semantic debate, not a scientific one. People are getting confused because they aren’t able to distinguish between the two. Hawks isn’t arguing that humans aren’t hominoids; he’s arguing that “apes”, as an English word, doesn’t have to be synonymous with “hominoids”. That’s all.

          3.  “Paraphyletic groups are very important to both the lay person and the scientist”

            How could a meaningless word be useful to anyone? Fish without tetrapods are meaningless. You cannot define positively a fish if tetrapods aren’t included in it. Or you’ll need to take the ecologic approach and include other marine vertebrates as well…

            In your example “there has been a distinct reorganization of the wrist bones in human relative to apes”

            I’d definitely go for “among other apes, humans are characterized by a reorganization of the wrist bones”. – this sentence say in easy to understand terms “wrist bones reorganization are autapomorphic to humans”

            “Fish” is like “strangers” either you love generalization, or you soon realize it’s meaningless.

      2. I’ve heard of another solution to the “fish” problem: limit it to actinopterygians. Then sharks, rays, lampreys, lungfish, coelancanths, etc. are not fish, but eels, gars, salmon, guppies, swordfish, goosefish, etc. are.

        One problem with using “fish” to mean “vertebrate” is that we already have the widely-known vernacular term “vertebrate”. “Ape” doesn’t have quite the same issue, since “hominoid” is a more obscure (and likely to be confused with “humanoid”).

        Of course, historicallly, “fish” meant any swimming animal, and even any shiny, darting animal, as we seen in words like starfish, silverfish, jellyfish, cuttlefish, shellfish, etc. It was more like a niche than a taxon.

  8. I don’t buy the “we are also fish” analogy. We have evolved to the point where we no longer fit the basic description of a fish. We still fit the basic description of an ape.

    We *were* fish. We are still apes.

    1. I find your faith in us once being fish fishy.

      What if a guy in a Pope Suit walked up to you and said your came from a fish, would you believe him?

      But you would believe some guy on NOVA.

      How about that Suzie Orman?

        1. PBS – the last refuge for con artists, shills, do wop bands, lame BBC dramas, nutrition experts. life coaches and Ken Burns.

          Pledge Week?

          At least cable delivers.

          1. @Bob Bivaletz-Thomson

            Logical fallacy:

            Universe 14 billion years old.
            Universe 14 billion light years in radius at birth.

            DUH!

            If the universe was 14 billion light years in radius 14 billion years ago how big was it 14,000,000,001 years ago?

            Did it expand at the speed of light or some speed slower than that?

            Did it slow down or speed up?

            How certain can you be about something 14 billion light years away from you?

            How certain can you be about something that happpened 14 billion years ago?

            Enjoy your new improved FAITH and RELIGION.

            A nation of morons, imbeciles and idiots, all educated by NOVA, Carl Sagan and George Lucas.

          2. The observable universe was far smaller than 14 billion light years in radius at birth (the ‘full’ universe may be far bigger). There’s no logical fallacy involved, and no faith involved either. Minds far brighter than yours have figured out the speed of light, the history and rate of expansion of the observable universe, estimated the age of the universe with reasonable universe (hint: it’s certainly older than 4,000 years). All of this is based on reams of evidence from physics and mathematics, and if you have one iota of evidence against this I invite you to pubish it in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and win your Nobel prize.

      1. It’s not faith, it’s the opposite of faith–evidence. There is a mountain of evidence supporting a common ancestor to all extant life.

      2. Empirical data is better than an appeal to authority.
        Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

        Assuming you are a human person, (not always a safe bet) then you once had gill slits in utero. 

        Berkeley has a nice web page about this at:

        evolution (dot) berkeley (dot) edu (slash) evosite (slash) evo101 (slash) IIIC6aOntogeny (dot) shtml

  9. I think we can be both Ape and Hominid with no controversy.

    Calling us fish doesn’t help any though.  It is clear that whereas our ancestors may have been fishlike- we are physically, and genetically quite different.  Calling us fish doesn’t help classify us, or give more credence to commonly accepted biological principals- all it does is sound sensationalist and illgotten.

    We didn’t evolve from the fish in the sea today- we evolved from a common ancestor of fish in the sea today.  If you trace our ancestory back before tiktallik roseae- you won’t find any organism alive today.  Not fish or anything else.  Those organisms are gone- we branched from them- they evolved down different path to become what are today’s fish.

    We are close enough to modern apes genetically and physically that it is no stretch to still classify us with them.  If the Pan genus are apes (and they are) then clearly we are too. 

    Ape may be a non-scientific term but “Hominoidea” which is the closest super-family to our definition isn’t.  We are as close (closer) to other members of our super-family than members of other biological super-families are to each other and there is no controversy with putting other species in families or superfamilies.

    Lumping us together with Apes shouldn’t bruise anyones pride.  It doesn’t make us any less intelligent or societally advanced because less than a couple million years ago our ancestors were the same creatures as the ancestors of Bonobo and Chimpanzee.

    I am an ape- I am a Hominid.  I am not a fish- I share an ancestor with fish (an ancestor which was a fish in its day)- but my ancestors became tetrapods.

    It may be arbitrary to say when a species cross from one group to another. We’re constantly rearranging things as specific as genuses- but it doesn’t help to say everything that evolved from fish ancestors are fish.

    1. At what exact point did we cease to be fish?  If my great-great-great-great(^10000) grandfather was a fish, then I’ve got some of his fishy DNA floating around inside me.  While it’s certainly unusual, I don’t think using that to say that we are a super-evolved form of fish is completely without merit.

  10. Maybe you are just stewed to the gills.

    Evolution makes fools of all who believe.

    Just like any other belief system.

    No evolution here, just Devolution.

    Those trapped in 4D space time think that time is linear and flows in one direction.

    I once was a child as well.

    1. you are a perfect example of devolution…

      man is so self centered that he actually believes that he is an image of GOD..

      have you looked into how big the universe is? earth is just a micro speck and to think that mankind is made in his image is absurd.

      1. No, you have no clue that there are an infinity of universes and anyone who believes the universe is only 14 billion years old while being 14 billion light years in radius at the same time has no place disparaging someone who knows how to read, write and cipher.

        As for god, god is made in the image of the local thug psychopath who has managed to murder, rape and enslave more of his fellows than the next monster. The real god is those higher order dimensions from which the information and variables concerning the spatial, characterists, properties and behaviors and functions as systems are contained and the slices or projections thereof are where all the things you cannot explain are located.

        Your big bang is nothing more than “let there be light” and your evolution is nothing more than Genesis stretched out into an incomprehensible time frame so as to exclude the need to evidence, logic or the scientific method.

        Enjoy your humbug.

        Airplanes and cars have internal combustion engines and machine screws – so, they naturally evolved from a common ancestor, the thumb screw and the stake for burning witches and heretics. Don’t keep me waiting – light up some faggots so I may ascend to heaven itself and free myself from the clutches of poorly domesticated apes with violent and psychopathic tendencies.

        So, what happened to your TAIL, monkey boy?

        Harrumph!

        Plus all those lies are there just to make you good slaves to the rich. Submit, obey, contribute, sacrifice – just like it was 4 thousand years ago, except we have smartphones instead of shackels.

        1. BS Detector, you reveal yourself to be a troll by calling others ‘morons’ and ‘monkeyboys’ (actually, I am a monkey boy, sitting on my derived tail right now).

          You have no idea what you’re talking about when you say this: ’14 billion years old while being 14 billion light years in radius at the same time’. What does this even mean? The observable universe can be measured to have started 14 billion years ago. That’s all that age estimate means. Its current size (the observable part) is estimated to be larger than this, because of the readily measurable expansion of space that is going on all around us.

        2. Time doesn’t flow at all it is a concept made up by humans to measure change. If you know the underlying nature of all that is then please explain it to the world so that we can make use of this most important information.

      1. That’s like saying we’re descended from single-cell organisms, so humans are just a line of modified single-cell organisms.

        1. But we are a line of modified single-cell organisms (eukaryotes), that happen to live in multicellular clumps to divide the labor of life.

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  12. You take a very long and boring route to get to your point. It’s quiet evident from this article that your book will be abysmal – just like other pseudo-intellectual writers who seem to be paid by the word. Please work on your communication skills if you intend to continue in this industry.

  13. Switek is correct, biologically we are just one (of many) lines in the broader fish clade.  For example, we have closer relatives to some fish lineages than those fish have to other types of fish. And, like them, we are descended from fish ancestors. And fundamentally, our body-plan is clearly and undeniably as fish-based as the fish that swim in the sea. We’re a type of clever fish that walks on land and breathes the air.

    We are also apes, and mammals and tetrapods, and (ultimately) are biologically definable as part of any broader lineage that we happen to belong to, with all that entails about our biology.

    That’s just biology folks, and as much as it might offend your delicate sense of being at the center of the universe, well… get over it and open your (fishy) eyes.

    1. As a matter of fact, everywhere and everyone is at the center of the universe. Consult an astrophysicist.

      As for Biology, I cannot help you there. Something happened to all the biologists. It wasn’t evolution. It was evolution.

      1. Astrophysicists tell us that there is no ‘center’ to the universe – everything expands, from no central point.  Since Copernicus, science has revealed that ‘…in the grand scheme of things everything we know points toward human being not occupying a privileged position’ (in the words of Brian Greene, an American theoretical physicist).

        Biology, an extension of physics, has the same message. What happened to biology was Charles Darwin, whose concept of ‘descent with modification’ tells us that humans do not occupy a privileged position on the grand tree (or web) of life.

  14. Ah, I get it! I’m a fish! And so are all other tetrapods? So… whales are fish! Yay! Grampa was right after all!

    hee hee hee 🙂

    I avoid all these problems by just adding ‘cladistically speaking’ in front of a phrase when possible confusion comes up, like “birds are dinosaurs” or “ants are wasps” or “your sister is a monkey”.  True, hardly anyone knows what ‘cladistically’ means, but sometimes it triggers a fun little conversation where I get to spout away on my knowledge of matters phylogenetical.

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