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Early fish-like tetrapod discovered

By Wang Ru  (China Daily)

09:57, October 25, 2012

The Chinese Academy of Sciences released a computer generated image of the stem-tetrapod. [File Photo/Xinhua]

Chinese scientists have found a new 409-million-year-old fishlike tetrapod (four-legged animals) from Zhaotong, Yunnan in southwestern China, a discovery that extends the history of this group by 10 million years and provides novel fossil evidence on the origin of the tetrapod brain.

In an Oct 23 article in Nature Communications, Zhu Min along with his research team from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, published the findings.

The new species is named Tungsenia paradoxa in memory of Liu Dongsheng, a renowned Chinese geologist died in 2008.

The study further fills in the morphological gap between tetrapods and lungfishes, and unveils the evolutionary pattern of character changes during the initial diversification of stem-tetrapods.

Living and extinct tetrapods comprise the first four-limbed vertebrates, and their descendents include amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

But a subgroup of the tetrapod lineage, known as stem-tetrapod from early Devonian (about from 359 to 416 million years ago), includes the half-fish, half-tetrapod animals that walked from water to land.

Previously, the undisputed earliest known stem-tetrapod was Kenichthys, a finned member from the late Emsian (399 million years ago) of Yunnan, China. Its advanced fish-like stem-tetrapods have greatly improved our knowledge of the fin-to-limb transition.

But a scarcity of fossil data from primitive finned tetrapods have prevented researched from obtaining a profound understanding of the acquisition sequence of tetrapod characters, according to the journal.

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