July 26, Qikiqtania (kee keek tan ee a) (1)


Tiktaalik had a cousin we call “Qikiqtania.”

They came from the same neighborhood up north in Canada.

They both had fins for walking; “Qiki’s” were more paddle-like.

So Qiki kept on swimming when Tiktaalik took a hike.


Though we think they were cousins, did their families have a fight?

And, over something stupid, (for we think they weren’t too bright?)

Tiktaalik had a wanderlust, while Qiki liked the pond.

Was it that simple?  Did that serve to break the family bond?


Tiktaalik wandered on the shore, then ventured far abroad.

And might have been the ancestor of every tetrapod,

To horses, cows, and even cowboys at home on the range,

Although it took three hundred eighty million years to change. (2)


But Qikiqtania kept swimming and improved its fins,

And thus the evolution of our modern fish begins.

Then whales and dolphins would return from land into the sea. (3)

The bones in their front fins still show Tiktaalik’s legacy.


So, these two cousins constitute a most important find,

Non-missing links in evolution and the ties that bind.

Both ancestors of vertebrates in water and on land,

Whose fins showed the beginnings of the modern human hand.


First came the hand and then big brains; one branch of tetrapods

Became tool makers, artists, then their brains invented gods.

Then, after gods came science, testing by experiments,

And realizing we came from a string of accidents.  (4)


  • Pronunciation guide to the creature’s name in the Inuit language. From an article in the New York Times, July 26, 2022.
  • Purists would argue that it’s closer to 375 million years but who’s counting? And besides, it doesn’t scan.
  • We think that this return of the prodigal tetrapods occurred about 50 million years ago. The bone structure of their fins is clearly tetrapod-like.  Getting their nose around to the back of their heads obviously took a while.
  • Starting with Charles Darwin in 1859. See also “Wonderful Life” by Stephen J. Gould.