The Japan Times
July 5, 2002

Fossil could help explain evolutionary movement from water to land

LONDON (Reuters) A fossil of a 350-million year old crocodile-like animal found in Scotland could fill a gaping evolutionary gap in the origin of land vertebrates, scientists said Wednesday.

The creature is a tetrapod, an animal with four feet, that lived between 365 and 335 million years ago during a period known as Romer's Gap, when little is known about the transition of animals from water to land. Although the meter-long fossil, called Pederpes finneyae and described by Jennifer Clack of the University of Cambridge in the science journal Nature, had the characteristics of fish and probably lived partly in water, it also showed the first signs of being able to walk on land.

"Discovery of a nearly complete skeleton in the middle of Romer's Gap should help in establishing the pattern of evolutionary change among early tetrapods," Robert Carroll, of McGill University in Montreal said in the journal.

While discoveries of fossils of dinosaurs and other mammals are quite frequent, Carroll said finding the remains of transitional animals does not happen as often. "The number of truly intermediate forms linking the major groups of vertebrates remains small," he added.

CAMBRIDGE, England — This photo, from the University Museum Cambridge, shows the fossilized remains of Pederpes finneyae. AP PHOTO