Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fossil footprints give land vertebrates a much longer history

Date:
January 8, 2010
Source:
Uppsala University
Summary:
The discovery of fossil footprints from early backboned land animals in Poland leads to the sensational conclusion that our ancestors left the water at least 18 million years earlier than previously thought.

Researchers have discovered fossil footprints from early backboned land animals that suggest our ancestors left the water at least 18 million years earlier than previously thought.
Credit: Image courtesy of Per Ahlberg, Uppsala University

The discovery of fossil footprints from early backboned land animals in Poland leads to the sensational conclusion that our ancestors left the water at least 18 million years earlier than previously thought.

The results of the Polish-Swedish collaboration are published online in the journal Nature.

"These results force us to reconsider our whole picture of the transition from fish to land animals," says Per Ahlberg of Uppsala University, one of the two leaders of the study.

For nearly eighty years, palaeontologists have been scouring the planet for fossil bones and skeletons of the earliest land vertebrates or "tetrapods" -- the ultimate progenitors of all later amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals including ourselves. Their discoveries have suggested that the first tetrapods evolved relatively rapidly from lobe-finned fishes, through a short-lived intermediate stage represented by "elpistostegids" such as Tiktaalik, about 380 million years ago. But there is another potential source of information about the earliest tetrapods: the fossilized footprints they left behind.

In the new study a Polish-Swedish team describe a rich and securely dated footprint locality from Zachelmie Quarry in Poland that pushes back the origin of tetrapods a full 18 million years beyond the earliest skeletal evidence and forces a dramatic reassessment of the transition from water to land.

The trackways show that large tetrapods, up to three metres in length, inhabited the marine intertidal zone during the early Middle Devonian some 395 million years ago.

"This means not that not only tetrapods but also elpistostegids originated much earlier than we thought, because the position of elpistostegids as evolutionary precursors of tetrapods is not in doubt, and so they must have existed at least as long," says Per Ahlberg.

The elpistostegids, it seems, were not at all a short-lived transitional stage but must have existed alongside their descendants the tetrapods for at least 10 million years. The environment is also a major surprise: almost all previous scenarios for the origin of tetrapods have placed this event in a freshwater setting and have associated it with the development of land vegetation and a terrestrial ecosystem.

"Instead, our distant ancestors may first have left the water in order to feed on stranded marine life left behind by the receding tide," says Per Ahlberg.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Uppsala University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Grzegorz Niedźwiedzki, Piotr Szrek, Katarzyna Narkiewicz, Marek Narkiewicz & Per E. Ahlberg. Tetrapod trackways from the early Middle Devonian period of Poland. Nature, 2010; 463 (7277): 43 DOI: 10.1038/nature08623

Cite This Page:

Uppsala University. "Fossil footprints give land vertebrates a much longer history." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100107114420.htm>.
Uppsala University. (2010, January 8). Fossil footprints give land vertebrates a much longer history. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100107114420.htm
Uppsala University. "Fossil footprints give land vertebrates a much longer history." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100107114420.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Where Did The World Trade Center Shipwreck Come From?

Where Did The World Trade Center Shipwreck Come From?

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Scientists say a ship remnant discovered underneath Ground Zero dates back to the 18th century. Why it sank is still uncertain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre

Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre

AP (July 29, 2014) Food scraps and other items left on the grounds by picnickers brings unwelcome visitors to the grounds of the world famous and popular Louvre Museum in Paris. (July 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
London's Famed 'Gherkin' Goes on Sale for 650 Mln

London's Famed 'Gherkin' Goes on Sale for 650 Mln

AFP (July 29, 2014) London's "Gherkin" office tower, one of the landmarks on the British capital's skyline, went on sale for about 650 million ($1.1 billion, 820 million euros) on Tuesday after being placed into receivership. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins