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Ventastega curonica and the origin of tetrapod morphology

Abstract

The gap in our understanding of the evolutionary transition from fish to tetrapod is beginning to close thanks to the discovery of new intermediate forms such as Tiktaalik roseae. Here we narrow it further by presenting the skull, exceptionally preserved braincase, shoulder girdle and partial pelvis of Ventastega curonica from the Late Devonian of Latvia, a transitional intermediate form between the ‘elpistostegids’ Panderichthys and Tiktaalik and the Devonian tetrapods (limbed vertebrates) Acanthostega and Ichthyostega. Ventastega is the most primitive Devonian tetrapod represented by extensive remains, and casts light on a part of the phylogeny otherwise only represented by fragmentary taxa: it illuminates the origin of principal tetrapod structures and the extent of morphological diversity among the transitional forms.

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Figure 1: Cranial material of Ventastega.
Figure 2: Postcranial material of Ventastega.
Figure 3: Reconstructions of Ventastega.
Figure 4: Skull shape and phylogeny.
Figure 5: Braincase of Ventastega.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the Pavāri field crews of 1988, 1991, 1995 and 2001. P.E.A. acknowledges the financial support of the Natural History Museum, London (1995 and 2001 field seasons) and the Swedish Research Council. H.B. acknowledges the support of NERC (2001 field season) and the Swedish Research Council. E.L. acknowledges the financial support of the Latvian Council of Science. Special thanks to Philip Renne for his life reconstructions.

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Correspondence to Per E. Ahlberg.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information 1

This file Supplementary Notes regarding the geological context and Supplementary Figures 1-2 with Legends. (PDF 313 kb)

Supplementary Information 2

This file Supplementary Notes regarding the relative warp analysis and Supplementary Figures 1-2 with Legends. (PDF 182 kb)

Supplementary Information 3

This file Supplementary Notes regarding the phylogenetic analysis and Supplementary Data. (PDF 275 kb)

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Ahlberg, P., Clack, J., Lukševičs, E. et al. Ventastega curonica and the origin of tetrapod morphology. Nature 453, 1199–1204 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature06991

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