Walking from water

A 350-million-year-old fossil fills in the gaps after the first animals left the seas and began to adapt to terrestrial life.

David Bruce(

The emergence of the first vertebrates from the seas and onto the land marked a key point in the history of life, but few fossils of the early tetrapods have been found from this period — often referred to as Romer's Gap. In 4 July Nature, Jennifer Clack at the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, UK, describes a near complete fossil amphibian that casts light on the limb development of these tetrapods (Nature 2002, 418:72-76).

Clack reclassified a fossil that had originally been misidentified as a rhizodont fish, discovered in 350-million-year (Myr) old deposits from Dumbarton, Scotland, and renamed it Pederpes finneyae — meaning 'rock crawler'. It has a five-digit pes (foot) and probably resembled a large skulled, rather ungainly crocodile. Features characteristic of fish e.g. grooves in the skull for lateral-line canals suggest that it lived at least partly in the water and almost certainly...

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