Friday, September 23, 2016

Ichthyostegid-like & Whatcheeriid-like Tetrapods Found in Famennian Devonian Belgium


Olive et al


The origin of tetrapods is one of the key events in vertebrate history. The oldest tetrapod body fossils are Late Devonian (Frasnian–Famennian) in age, most of them consisting of rare isolated bone elements. Here we describe tetrapod remains from two Famennian localities from Belgium: Strud, in the Province of Namur, and Becco, in the Province of Liège. The newly collected material consists of an isolated complete postorbital, fragments of two maxillae, and one putative partial cleithrum, all from Strud, and an almost complete maxilla from Becco. The two incomplete maxillae and cleithrum from Strud, together with the lower jaw previously recorded from this site, closely resemble the genus Ichthyostega, initially described from East Greenland. The postorbital from Strud and the maxilla from Becco do not resemble the genus Ichthyostega. They show several derived anatomical characters allowing their tentative assignment to a whatcheeriid-grade group. The new tetrapod records show that there are at least two tetrapod taxa in Belgium and almost certainly two different tetrapod taxa at Strud. This locality joins the group of Devonian tetrapod-bearing localities yielding more than one tetrapod taxon, confirming that environments favourable to early tetrapod life were often colonized by several tetrapod taxa.

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