Scientists unearth new species of earliest tetrapod in Eastern Cape

Not so fishy: Africa's first ever fish-with-legs discovered

SA fossils rewrite early history of life on land

Both of the amphibians were reportedly are in the category of early tetrapods, and they are in the groups which encompass all the terrestrial vertebrates.

The Minister added that it also provided answers as to what occurred before humans existed, including the evolution of plant and animal life, noting that this latest discovery placed South Africa at the forefront of the study of the evolution of land-living vertebrate animals, including the ancestry of all the wildlife in the country's game parks.

However, the discovery of the 360 million years old fossils of Tutusius umlambo and Umzantsia amazana primitive amphibians in Waterloo Farm, near Grahamstown, in South Africa, a region which was at the Arctic circle during the Devonian Period, indicates that first land animals could've emerged from colder regions, too. The fossils reportedly dated back to near about three hundred sixty million years ago.

They evolved from a common finned animal, thought to be the lobe-finned fish. 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 two fossils belong to two different species of vertebrates that would have probably looked like a cross between a crocodile and a fish, sporting a crocodile-like head and short stubby legs, but retaining a fish-like tail.

Gess's research was funded by the University of the Witwatersrand's Centre for Excellence in Palaeosciences and the Millennium Trust.

"Whereas all previously found Devonian tetrapods came from localities which were in tropical regions during the Devonian, these specimens lived within the Antarctic circle".

All but two of them came from Laurasia.

The much larger southern supercontinent, Gondwana, which incorporated present-day Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, and India, has hitherto yielded nearly no Devonian tetrapods, with only an isolated jaw (named Metaxygnathus) and footprints, being found in eastern Australia. Because Australia was the northernmost part of Gondwana, extending into the tropics, an assumption developed that tetrapods evolved in the tropics, most likely in Laurussia.

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

"So we now know that tetrapods, by the end of the Devonian lived all over the world, from the tropics to the Antarctic circle".

'So it's possible that they originated anywhere and that they could have moved onto land anywhere.

Gess, who works for the Albany Museum in Grahamstown, discovered the fossils in rock that he saved from road construction in 1999.

South Africa holds one of the most comprehensive databases of human evolutionary history in the world. This includes the Cradle of Humankind, the world's richest early hominin site and is home to around 40 percent of the world's known human-ancestor fossils.

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