Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

A new Early Carboniferous tetrapod with a mélange of crown-group characters

Abstract

Living (that is, crown-group) tetrapods represent the phylogenetic end-points of two lineages which diverged from each other during the mid/late Palaeozoic era. These two groups of tetrapods are the Amphibia (frogs, salamanders and caecilians), with their roots among temnospondyls1,2, and the Amniota (mammals, turtles, crocodiles, birds, lizards and snakes), with their roots among anthracosaurs3,4. The earliest representatives of both lineages, including a stem amniote, are known from the Viséan of East Kirkton, Scotland5. Here I describe a new taxon from this locality that not only combines characters of each lineage, but also represents the basal member of a third Palaeozoic group, the baphetids. The baphetids lie within the base of the crown clade of tetrapods and the morphology of the new taxon, their most primitive member, is a new benchmark for studying the polarity and evolution of crown tetrapod characters.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Skull of Eucritta melanolimnetes.
Figure 2: Body of Eucritta melanolimnetes.
Figure 3: Phylogenetic analysis.

References

  1. Milner, A. R. in The Phylogeny and Classification of the Tetrapods (ed. Benton, M. J.) 59–102 (Clarendon, Oxford, 1988).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Trueb, L. & Cloutier, R. in Origins of the Higher Groups of Tetrapods (eds Schultze, H. & Trueb, L.) 223–314 (Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, New York, 1991).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Panchen, A. L. & Smithson, T. R. in The Phylogeny and Classification of the Tetrapods (ed. Benton, M. J.) 1–32 (Clarendon, Oxford, 1988).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Gauthier, J. A., Kluge, A. G. & Rowe, T. in The Phylogeny and Classification of the Tetrapods (ed. Benton, M. J.) 103–155 (Clarendon, Oxford, 1988).

    Google Scholar 

  5. Rolfe, W. D. I., Clarkson, E. N. K. & Panchen, A. L. (eds) Volcanism and Early Terrestrial Biotas. Trans. R. Soc. Edinb. Earth Sci. 84, parts 3 and 4 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Rolfe, W. D. I. et al. The East Kirkton Limestone, Viséan, of West Lothian, Scotland: introduction and stratigraphy. Trans. R. Soc. Edinb. Earth Sci. 84, 177–188 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  7. Milner, A. R. & Sequeira, S. E. K. The temnospondyl amphibians from the Viséan of East Kirkton, West Lothian, Scotland. Trans. R. Soc. Edinb. Earth Sci. 84, 331–362 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Smithson, T. R. Eldeceeon rolfei, a new reptiliomorph from the Viséan of East Kirkton, West Lothian, Scotland. Trans. R. Soc. Edinb. Earth Sci. 84, 377–382 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Clack, J. A. Silvanerpeton miripedes, a new anthracosauroid from the Viséan of East Kirkton, West Lothian, Scotland. Trans. R. Soc. Edinb. Earth Sci. 84, 369–376 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Smithson, T. R., Carroll, R. L., Panchen, A. L. & Andrews, S. M. Westlothiana lizziae from the Viséan of East Kirkton, West Lothian, Scotland and the amniote stem. Trans. R. Soc. Edinb. Earth Sci. 84, 383–412 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Milner, A. C. The aı¨stopod amphibian from the Viséan of East Kirkton, West Lothian, Scotland. Trans. R. Soc. Edin. Earth Sci. 84, 363–368 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  12. Jeram, A. J. & Selden, P. A. Eurypterids from the Viséan of East Kirkton, West Lothian, Scotland. Trans. R. Soc. Edinb. Earth Sci. 84, 301–308 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  13. Jeram, A. J. Scorpions from the Viséan of East Kirkton, West Lothian, Scotland, with a revision of the infrarorder Mesoscorpionina. Trans. R. Soc. Edinb. Earth Sci. 84, 283–300 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  14. Shear, W. A. Myriapodous arthropods from the Viséan of East Kirkton, West Lothian, Scotland. Trans. R. Soc. Edinb. Earth Sci. 84, 309–316 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Wood, S. P., Panchen, A. L. & Smithson, R. R. Aterrestrial fauna from the Scottish lower Carboniferous. Nature 314, 355–356 (1985).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Clarkson, E. N. K., Milner, A. R. & Coates, M. I. Palaeoecology of the Viséan of East Kirkton, West Lothian, Scotland. Trans. R. Soc. Edinb. Earth Sci. 84, 417–426 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  17. Beaumont, E. H. Cranial morphology of the Loxommatidae (Amphibia: Labyrinthodontia). Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 280, 29–101 (1977).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  18. Coates, M. I. The Devonian tetrapod Acanthostega gunnari Jarvik: postcranial skeleton, basal tetrapod relationships and patterns of skeletal evolution. Trans. R. Soc. Edinb. Earth Sci. 87, 363–421 (1996).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Carroll, R. L. & Gaskill, P. The Order Microsauria. Mem. Am. Phil. Soc. (1978).

  20. Milner, A. C. & Lindsay, W. Postcranial remains of Baphetes and their bearing on the relationships of the Baphetidae (= Loxommatidae). Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 122, 211–235 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Laurin, M. & Reisz, R. R. in Amniote Origins–Completing the Transition to Land (eds Sumida, S. S. & Martin, K. L. M.) 9–59 (Academic, London, 1997).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  22. Holmes, R. B., Carroll, R. L. & Reisz, R. R. The first articulated skeleton of Dendrerpeton acadianum (Temnospondyli, Dendrerpetontidae) from Joggins (Westphalian B) Nova Scotia, and the interrelationships of early temnospondyls. J. Vert. Paleontol. 18, 64–79 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Beaumont, E. H. & Smithson, T. R. The cranial morphology and relationships of the aberrant Carboniferous amphibian Spathicephalus mirus Watson. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 122, 187–209 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Smithson, T. R. The cranial morphology of Greererpeton burkemorani Romer (Amphibia: Temnospondyli). Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 76, 29–90 (1982).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Clack, J. A. The stapes of the Coal Measures embolomere Pholiderpeton scutigerum Huxley and otic evolution in early tetrapods. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 79, 121–148 (1983).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Clack, J. A. The evolution of tetrapod ears and the fossil record. Brain Behav. Evol. 50, 198–212 (1997).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Lebedev, O. A. & Coates, M. I. The postcranial skeleton of the Devonian tetrapod Tulerpeton curtum Lebedev. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 114, 307–348 (1995).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Swofford, D. L. PAUP: Phylogenetic Analysis using Parsimony, Version 3.1 (Illinois Nat. Hist. Surv., Champaign, Illinois, 1993).

    Google Scholar 

  29. Maddison, W. P. & Maddison, D. R. MacClade. Version 3.0 Analysis of Phylogeny and Character Evolution (Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA, 1992).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

I thank A. C. Milner for access to unpublished work on the postcranial material of baphetids; A. C. Milner and A. R. Milner for discussion of baphetid relationships and for comments on draft manuscripts; and K. A. Joysey for facilitating the acquisition of specimens of Eucritta.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jennifer A. Clack.

Supplementary Information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Clack, J. A new Early Carboniferous tetrapod with a mélange of crown-group characters. Nature 394, 66–69 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1038/27895

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/27895

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing