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Nature. 2002 Jul 4;418(6893):72-6.

An early tetrapod from 'Romer's Gap'.

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1
University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, Downing St., Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK. j.a.clack@zoo.cam.ac.uk

Abstract

The fossil record of early tetrapods has been increased recently by new finds from the Devonian period and mid-late Early Carboniferous period. Despite this, understanding of tetrapod evolution has been hampered by a 20-million-year gap ('Romer's Gap') that covers the crucial, early period when many key features of terrestrial tetrapods were acquired. Here I describe the only articulated skeleton of a tetrapod, Pederpes, yet found from the Tournaisian epoch (354-344 million years ago (Myr)). The new taxon includes a pes with five robust digits, but a very small, possibly supernumerary digit preserved on the manus suggests the presence of polydactyly. Polydactylous early tetrapods may have survived beyond the end of the Devonian and pentadactyly cannot be assumed for the pes. However, the pes has characteristics that distinguish it from the paddle-like feet of the Devonian forms and resembles the feet of later, more terrestrially adapted Carboniferous forms. Pederpes is the earliest-known tetrapod to show the beginnings of terrestrial locomotion and was at least functionally pentadactyl. With its later American sister-genus, Whatcheeria, it represents the next most primitive tetrapod clade after those of the Late Devonian, bridging the temporal, morphological and phylogenetic gaps that have hitherto separated Late Devonian and mid-Carboniferous tetrapod faunas.

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PMID:
12097908
DOI:
10.1038/nature00824
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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