December 6, 2016
by Brett Smith
Fossils of what could possibly be the earliest four-legged vertebrates to walk on land were recently found in Scotland, according to a new report in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
The team behind the discovery said the lizard-like animals that left behind these fossils lived approximately 355 million years ago when the precursors of modern reptiles, birds, and mammals appeared out of swamps.
The discovery fills in a 15 million-year gap in the fossil record and included five completely intact fossils, with many more pieces of bones yet to be categorized.
The researchers said some fossil fragments look like lizards or newts, and some are bigger, with crocodile-like dimensions.
"We're lifting the lid on a key part of the evolutionary story of life on land," team member Jennifer Clack, of the University of Cambridge, told BBC News. "What happened then affects everything that happens subsequently - so it affects the fact that we are here and which other animals live with us today."