The first African fossils of Devonian tetrapods (four-legged vertebrates) show these pioneers of land living within the Antarctic Circle 360 million years ago.

The evolution of tetrapods from fishes during the Devonian period was a key event in our distant ancestry.  Recently discovered 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 Department of Science and Technology and National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences, based at the University of the Witwatersrand, and the Millennium Trust.

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