Fossil fills out water-land leap

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Fossil fills out water-land leap:

About one hundred million years before dinosaurs began to roam the Earth, Ventastega [curonica] was to be found in the shallow waters and tidal estuaries of modern day Latvia.

According to lead author, Professor Per Ahlberg, from Uppsala University, Sweden, this creature had the head of a tetrapod, an animal adapted to live on land. The body, though, was fish-like but with four primitive flippers.

“From a distance, it would have looked like an alligator. But closer up, you would have noticed a real tail fin at the back end, a gill flap at the side of the head; also lines of pores snaking across head and body.

“In terms of construction, it had already undergone most of the changes from fish towards land animal, but in terms of lifestyle you are still looking at an animal that is habitually aquatic.”

Experts believe that Ventastega was an important staging post in the evolutionary journey that led creatures from the sea to the land.

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