Jenny Clack, Paleontologist: The First Vertebrate Walks on Land


As a paleontologist, Jenny Clack wants to find the transitional form between fish and land vertebrates or tetrapods. She spent years teasing a fossil from its rock and studying the fish-like animal that shows evolution in mid-process during the Devonian. It was an animal with both gills and lungs. Out in the field, Dr. Clack tries to understand the lives of transitional forms by studying fossilized footsteps, “an action replay” from deep time.

Next Generation Science Standards for this Video

The complementary nature of structure and function is shown in the presence of both gills and lungs in tetrapods, which could breathe both in water and in air.

The fossil that Jenny Clack studies an extinct vertebrate by looking at its fossil.

A beautifully preserved tetrapod fossil provides evidence of adaptations that allowed vertebrates to invade land.

Paleontologists , like Jenny Clack, have keen observational skills in the lab and in the field, and also have analytical skills and lots of patience.

Jenny Clack studies a fossil tetrapod and its fossilized footprints and makes the connection between the two and explains how it walked on land.

Scientist in this video

It's every paleontologist's dream to find a transitional form, something that falls between two groups that we are familiar with, that sort of links them both in terms of anatomy and lifestyle.-- Jenny Clack