History June 08, 2018 at 04:52 am

Remains of 360 million years old four-legged animals unearthed in South Africa

Nduta Waweru June 08, 2018 at 04:52 am

June 08, 2018 at 04:52 am | History

An artist's impression of Tutusius during the Devonian period 360 million years ago ( University of the Witwatersrand )

Scientists on Thursday unearthed the remains of ancient amphibians that lived on earth 360 million years ago, changing what we believed about evolution.

The remains of Tutusius umlambo and Umzantsia amazana were found in Grahamstown in South Africa. These amphibians were shaped like fish with legs and are believed to have been among the first to have shifted from water to land.

Tutusius, named in honour of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was known from its single shoulder girdle bone, measuring about a meter long.

The Umzantsia features include 28-inches long body, with a long, slender lower jaw, apparently armed with small pointed teeth.

Artist’s illustration of the two newly discovered Tutusius and Umzantsia that lived about 360 million years ago

The discovery is an important aspect of history. For the longest time, scientists believed that shift from water to land during the Devonian period (420-390 million years ago) only happened in the tropics because most fossils of ancient amphibians and fish were found in the warm climate.

“So we now know that tetrapods, by the end of the Devonian, lived all over the world, from the tropics to the Antarctic circle,” said paleontologist Robert Gess, based at the Albany Museum in Grahamstown as part of the South African Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences, centered at the University of the Witwatersrand.

According to Dr Gess, these tetrapods had evolved for survival in shallow waters thus they retained the fish-like tail but developed legs for use on land. It is from these animals that all land animals as we know them descend.

During the Devonian period, the African continent was still part of the Gondwana supercontinent, which included South America, India, Antarctica and Australia.



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