Some fossils found in South Africa may belong to amphibians that gave rise to land-based creatures hundreds of millions of years ago.
Scientists have found some fossils in South Africa from the Devonian Period, which spanned 60 million years and ended about 359 million years ago, that are from what may be the earliest known four-legged vertebrates. These amphibians were found at a place called Waterloo Farm, which is situated in Grahamstown.
Scientists named the fossils Tutusius and Umzantsia, and they probably looked like a cross between a fish and an alligator. They likelyl ate small fish and tiny invertebrates, both on land and in the water.
These Devonian tetrapods may be the ancestors of every vertebrate here on Earth, and may be the ones that first started living on land. The creatures were probably between two and three feet long, and were identified with a small piece of bone.
“The first African fossils of Devonian tetrapods (four-legged vertebrates) show these pioneers of land living within the Antarctic circle, 360 million years ago,” reads the statement from the University of the Witwatersrand. “The evolution of tetrapods from fishes during the Devonian period was a key event in our distant ancestry. New-found fossils from the latest Devonian Waterloo Farm locality near Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, published today in Science, force a major reassessment of this event. “Whereas all previously found Devonian tetrapods came from localities which were in tropical regions during the Devonian, these specimens lived within the Antarctic circle,” explains lead author, Dr Robert Gess of the Albany Museum in Grahamstown, and co-author Professor Per Ahlberg of Uppsala University in Sweden. The research was supported by the South African DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences, based at the University of the Witwatersrand and the Millennium Trust.”