The emergence of land-going vertebrates was a cornerstone event in the evolution of life on earth.
For decades, a paltry fossil record obfuscated efforts to trace the steps that eventually produced these terrestrial tetrapods from their fish ancestors.
Fossils recovered over the past 15 years have filled many of the gaps in the story and revolutionized what is known about tetrapod evolution, diversity, biogeography and paleoecology.
These recent finds indicate that tetrapods evolved many of their
characteristic features while they were still aquatic. They also reveal that early members of the group were more specialized and more geographically and ecologically widespread than previously thought.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Jennifer A. Clack
Jennifer A. Clack, a reader in vertebrate paleontology and doctor of science at the University of Cambridge, has been studying tetrapod origins for 25 years. A fellow of the Linnean Society, Clack's outside interests include choral singing (particularly of early sacred music) and gardening. She is also a motorcyclist and rides a Yamaha Diversion 900.