Something fishy in Hyde Park

Moderator Lance Grande (left), Field Museum of Natural History curator, listens as Neil Shubin, University of Chicago professor of paleontology and evolutionary biology, answers a question from the audience after a screening of the first episode of Shubin’s Public Broadcasting Series show, Your Inner Fish, in the Logan Center, 915 E. 60th St., performance hall Thursday evening. -Marc Monaghan

Moderator Lance Grande (left), Field Museum of Natural History curator, listens as Neil Shubin, University of Chicago professor of paleontology and evolutionary biology, answers a question from the audience after a screening of the first episode of Shubin’s Public Broadcasting Series show, Your Inner Fish, in the Logan Center, 915 E. 60th St., performance hall Thursday evening.

-Marc Monaghan

 

By LINDSAY WELBERS
Staff Writer

Hyde Parker Neil Shubin’s work studying paleontology at the University of Chicago has taken him to places as far away as Canada’s arctic north and South Africa. However much of his PBS series “Your Inner Fish” is a Hyde Park story, he said.

The three part PBS series “Your Inner Fish” will air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on WTTW. The first part in the series “Your Inner Fish” will air April 9, with the second part “Your Inner Reptile” airing April 16 and the final installment “Your Inner Monkey” on April 23.

During the filming, which took place over two years, the film crew traveled to the Canadian arctic, South Africa, Ethopia and Greenland, but at least 20 percent of the scenes were filmed in Chicago and around Hyde Park.

The series opening sequence features Chicago skylines and a ride on the CTA through the Loop. Many scenes were filmed in Shubin’s home on 58th Street and Dorchester Avenue. He visits his friend on 54th Street and Dorchester Avenue to see a mark above her ear that can be traced back to her fishy ancestor’s gills.

Other scenes were filmed along the lakeshore and in the U. of C.’s gothic architecture.

“The story had to be personal or it would read like a lecture,” Shubin said. “There are some kinds of storytelling where the setting is a character.”

Shubin’s book “Your Inner Fish” became a New York Times bestseller when it was released in 2008. The book explains in simple and entertaining language the human connection to our fish ancestors from an evolutionary perspective. The three-part PBS series allows that same story in a visual medium.

In the first installment the U. of C. professor and associate dean for academic strategy of the Biological Sciences Division, tells how spent summers searching for fossils among one stretch of arctic rock.

After four trips where he and a team of researchers camped in the arctic, and sleeping next to shotguns in case a polar bear should wander into camp, they were able to discover the fossil tiktaalik.

Tiktaalik was a “fish with feet” which proved a link between creatures that lived in the water and creatures that lived on the earth. Tiktaalik was one of the first vertebrates to walk on land.

Shubin explains within the series the connections humans still have with our fish ancestors, including similarities between fish embryos and human embryos and the similar bone structures all vertebrates have in their limbs.