Discover Magazine dark matter
Your hands are, roughly speaking, 360 million years old. Before then, they were fins, which your fishy ancestors used to swim through oceans and rivers. Once those fins sprouted digits, they could propel your salamander-like ancestors across dry land. Fast forward 300 million years, and your hands had become fine-tuned for manipulations: your lemur-like ancestors used them to grab leaves and open up fruits. Within the past few million years, your hominin ancestors had fairly human hands, which they used to fashion tools for digging up tubers, butchering carcasses, and laying the groundwork for our global dominance today. We know a fair amount about the transition from fins to hands thanks to the moderately mad obsession of paleontologists, who venture to inhospitable places around the Arctic where the best fossils from that period of our evolution are buried. A team of Spanish scientists has provided us with a glimpse of that story. Both fins and hands get their start in embryos.