Our four-legged, five-toed ancestors conquered the land earlier and more independently than expected, say paleontologists studying newfound 345 to 359-million-year-old tracks at an eroding beach in eastern Canada.
At least six different kinds of four-limbed reptile-like animals – a.k.a. tetrapods – with five digits on their feet left their tromping prints in the mud of what was once a tropical swamp at Blue Beach, Nova Scotia. The five-digit tracks range in size from four inches to less than an inch and seem to contradict the prevailing idea that the first tetrapods had wide variety of other-than-five-toed (polydactyl) feet, out of which five-toed (pentadactyl) animals later won out as the most efficient on land. "We’re talking about a fundamental question in the history of life," said paleontologist Spencer Lucas of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque. "We are talking about the origin of terrestriality. It’s from this conquest (of land) that we are here."
It’s also the evolutionary step that set the stage for our ten fingers and toes.
Ann Cairns | EurekAlert!
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