Science and art bring back to life 300 million-year-old specimens of a primitive reptile-like vertebrate

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Palaeontologists from the Natural History Museum and academics from Lincoln, Cambridge and Slovakia have managed to recreate the cranial structure of a 308-million-year-old lizard-like vertebrate that could potentially be the earliest example of a reptile and explain the origin of all vertebrates that belong to reptiles, birds and mammals.

Dr. Marcello Ruta, from the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, was one of the co-authors of the paper that was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology and produced a series of intricate hand-drawn recreations of the cranial structure of Gephyrostegus.

Ruta's intricate hand drawing: University of Lincoln

Ruta’s intricate hand drawing: University of Lincoln

Palaeontologists have provided a cranial reconstruction of a long-extinct limbed vertebrate (tetrapod) from previously unrecognized specimens discovered in coal deposits from the Czech Republic.

The team of academics reviewed the cranial structural features of the Late Carboniferous Gephyrostegus bohemicus- a small animal with a lizard-like build that roamed the earth 308 million years ago.

It has been found that this early tetrapod may be the earliest example of a reptile and explain the origin of amniotes, all vertebrates that belong to reptiles, birds and mammals.

Experts from, Comenius University in Bratislava (Slovakia), University Museum of Zoology in Cambridge, The Natural History Museum in London, and the University of Lincoln have been able to study additional specimens unavailable in previous works.

Ruta explained: “Gephyrostegus has always been an elusive beast. Several researchers have long considered the possibility that the superficially reptile-like features of this animal might tell us something about amniote ancestry. But Gephyrostegus also shows some much generalised skeletal features that make the issue of its origin even more problematic. We conducted a new study that brings together data from a large number of early tetrapods. The study shows that Gephyrostegus is closely related to another group of Eurasiatic and North American tetrapods called seymouriamorphs, also involved in debates about amniote ancestry. We found some interesting new cranial features in Gephyrostegus that helped us establish this link.

“Staring at specimens for a long time down a microscope and trying to make sense of their anatomy may be frustrating and tiring at times, but always immensely rewarding.”

 

Contributing Source: University of Lincoln

Header Image Source: Fotopedia

 

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