Fossils discovered in South Africa could question evolution of the earliest terrestrial life

Scientists involved in a new study brought to light on Thursday 7th June the discovery of fossilized remains of two amphibians that lived in the early Devonian Period. The fossils reportedly dated back to near about three hundred sixty million years ago.

Found at Waterloo Farm near a place known as Grahamstown in South Africa, the fossilized remains of the two amphibians, namely Umzantsia amazana and Tutusius umlambo have forced the researchers to restudy the evolution of terrestrial vertebrates. The researchers are in a dilemma about the place where these creatures initially turned up and as to what climate conditions made them evolve.

After studying the fossils, the scientists concluded that the Umzantsia and Tutusius were possibly four-legged creatures that had a body resembling the alligators and a tail resembling fishes. The creatures having a similar appearance to that of the oldest known amphibians, fed on small fishes when they were in the sea and fed on small invertebrates when they were on the land.

The Umzantsia reportedly measured around twenty-eight inches (seventy centimeters) in length and featured a narrow lower jaw line with tiny pointed teeth. The Tutusius reportedly named after Desmond Tutu, the Human Rights activist and South African Anglican cleric, measured near about one meter in length.

Both the amphibians reportedly were classified in the category of early tetrapods, which is a group that encompasses all the terrestrial vertebrates. The early tetrapods originated from the fishes at the time of the Devonian period. Until this new discovery, it was believed that this origination took place in warm climatic conditions as the fossilized remains of every oldest known amphibian along with their ancestors were found in tropical regions. However, this new discovery announced on Thursday was made at Waterloo Farm that is a region in the Arctic Circle.

Robert Gess, a paleontologist at the Albany Museum in Grahamstown, said in a statement, “So we now know that tetrapods, by the end of the Devonian, lived all over the world, from the tropics to the Antarctic Circle.” Further, he added, “So it’s possible that they originated anywhere and that they could have moved onto land anywhere. It really broadens the scope of possibilities.”

The observation of this study has been published in Science journal.

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