2021 Best in Film and Video – Liana Lau

Our Forgotten Ancestor: Fish

Medium: Origami stop-motion video

The geologic timeline has seen a significant evolution of multi-cellular life, starting around the Phanerozoic eon up until modern day in the Holocene eon. The gradual progression of early multi- cellular life from water onto land is particularly fascinating as these organisms faced new challenges with most falling victim to the forces of gravity. These organisms developed stronger limbs that allowed them to roam the dry land though not for very long. Eventually, amphibians, who were able to navigate both on land and water, arose, followed by amniotes who could both reproduce and survive on land. Following the evolution of the amniotes, there was a divergence in skeletal structure, dividing the amniotes into synapsid and diapsid. At first, the synapsids were in the majority but many soon perished in an extinction event, allowing the diapsids to radiate and expand in number. For a period of time, the diapsid dinosaurs wandered the land until they too became extinct. The ecosystems are now devoid of the main predators. Synapsids take this chance to come back to their former ecosystems, evolving into many of the modern species that we see today, including ourselves. While there were also other extinction and geological events that occurred during this evolutionary path that are also interesting to note and were not mentioned in this explanation, the most important concept represented here is the development of multi-cellular life from water to land and from past to present day.

In order to sufficiently depict this gradual evolution, origami stop-motion was used to convey the passage of time in an engaging and simple to digest format. The main actor of this video was the peach- colored origami figure, who serves to highlight the dominant evolutionary path at the time. Other accompanying origami figures were used to highlight differences or extinction events that occurred at the time. Skeletal diagrams with arrows and pink extinction markers in the left-hand corner helped indicate these ideas further. Additionally, the framing of each origami figure helped show differences in habitat: The amniote tetrapod laid its eggs on the land while the amphibian tetrapod did so in the water. The movements of the origami figures also helped convey a transition in form or title: the lobe-finned fish spun to show a change in label to a tetrapod and the amniote tetrapods transformed into diapsid and synapsid counterparts. Additional narration was used to explain to the viewer what they were observing and provide additional detail on particular terms or events that occurred. Sound effects were also used to make the experience more immersive.