At the Waterloo Farm, near Grahamstown, in South Africa, researchers discovered fossilized remains of two primitive amphibians, Tutusius umlambo and Umzantsia amazana, which inhabited the Devonian Period 360 million years ago. What makes this an interesting discovery is that, during the Devonian Period, the Waterloo Farm was part of the Arctic circle, taking into account that Africa, South America, India, Australia, and Antarctica were back then forming one single supercontinent, the Gondwana.
Thus, the discovery is puzzling the scientists because it suggests that the first land vertebrates emerged from the oceans of Antarctica, a fact that might force researchers rewrite the early history of life on land.
According to the researchers, both Tutusius and Umzantsia presented the characteristics of primitive amphibians, namely, four legs and an alligator-like body with fish-like characteristics. Both these primitive amphibians were feeding with smaller fish while lurking in the Devonian Periods’ waters and small vertebrates while on land.
The early history of life on land might be changed by the discovery of South African primitive amphibian fossils from Devonian Period
To date, scientists hypothesized that life on land developed from fish during the Devonian Period in warmer climates. However, the discovery of the 360 million years old fossils of Tutusius umlambo and Umzantsia amazana primitive amphibians in Waterloo Farm, near Grahamstown, in South Africa, a region which was at the Arctic circle during the Devonian Period, indicates that first land animals could’ve emerged from colder regions, too.
The possibilities are now broader than ever regarding the evolution of the first land animals.
“So we now know that tetrapods, by the end of the Devonian, lived all over the world, from the tropics to the Antarctic circle. So it’s possible that they originated anywhere and that they could have moved onto land anywhere. It really broadens the scope of possibilities,” explained Robert Gess, a paleontologist at the Albany Museum in Grahamstown.