SA scientist makes history with fossil discovery named after Tutu

12 Juin, 2018, 03:25 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • SA scientist makes history with fossil discovery named after Tutu

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.

It remains to be seen what else scientists are going to discover about early land life, following this reveal. This is the first time tetrapods fossil have been discovered in a different locality, a site at Waterloo Farm near Grahamstown in South Africa.

Although Waterloo Farm wasn't frozen back in the ancient Devonian period-which stretched from 420 to 360 million years ago-it still faced nights that lasted for weeks in the dead of winter. Specifically, within the Antarctic circle some 360 million years ago. The early tetrapods which are originated from the fishes at the time of the Devonian period and in this discovery it was believed that this organization took place in warm climatic conditions as the fossilized remains of every oldest known amphibian along with the ancestors and were found in tropical regions. "They are the link between fish and four-legged animals", he said in an interview on Thursday.

While the fossils are fragmentary, the researchers said Tutusius and Umzantsia most likely shared the four-legged, alligator-crossed-with-a-fish body plan of the earliest amphibians, eating small fish while in the water and perhaps small invertebrates while on land.

"Alive, they would have resembled a cross between a crocodile and a fish, with a crocodile-like head, stubby legs and a tail with a fish-like fin", Gess explained, adding that their evolution was the result of an adaptation of living in shallow lakes and lagoons.

The research was supported by the South African DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences‚ based at the University of the Witwatersrand and the Millennium Trust.

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All but two of them came from Laurasia. The only fossil found of these amphibian tetrapods was a jaw and footprints in eastern Australia.

"Now we have evidence of two types of Devonian tetrapod from the other end of Gondwana, on the other side of the South Pole, in the Antarctic Circle", Dr Robert Gess, one of the leading researchers, told AFP.

It was then deduced that all Devonian tetrapods were tropical, with a tropical origin, and that the move onto land probably occurred in tropical environments.

"Whereas all previously found Devonian tetrapods came from localities which were in tropical regions during the Devonian period, these specimens lived within the Antarctic circle", the article's authors - Gess and fellow palaeontologist from Uppsala University in Sweden, Prof Per Ahlberg - said. Taking this into account, it's highly possible that they originated anywhere in the world.

The latest fossil discovery of the meter long Tutusius umlambo, which is named after nobel peace prize victor Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and Umzantsia amazana means their terrestrialisation could have happened anywhere.

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

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