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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Marine Stem-Tetrapod from the Devonian of Western North America

  • Author(s): Swartz, Brian
  • et al.

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The origin of terrestrial vertebrates represents one of the major evolutionary and ecological transformations in the history of life, and the established timing and environment of this transition has recently come under scrutiny. The discovery and description of a well-preserved fossil sarcopterygian (fleshy-limbed vertebrate) from the Middle Devonian of Nevada helps to refine and question aspects of the temporal and anatomical framework that underpins the tetrapod condition. This new taxon, Tinirau clackae, demonstrates that substantial parallelism pervaded the early history of stem-tetrapods, raises additional questions about when digited sarcopterygians first evolved, and further documents that incipient stages of the terrestrial appendicular condition began when sarcopterygians still retained their median fins and occupied aquatic habitats.

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