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Chinese boffins discover bizarro fish-oid creature with FOUR LIMBS

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Chinese boffins have discovered fossil remains of what they believe is the world’s oldest stem tetrapod – a four-limbed fish-like creature. The discovery could provide vital clues about the evolutionary path of vertebrates from sea to land.

Zhu Min and his research team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, published their findings in Nature Communications this week.

They found the critter, named Tungsenia paradoxa apparently in memory of renowned Chinese geologist Liu Dongsheng, in Yunnan province, south-west China.

The new stem tetrapod is from the early Devonian period of around 409 million years ago, 10 million years earlier than the previous earliest record of these creatures - the finned Kenichthys.

A lack of fossil data has historically limited scientists’ knowledge of the morphological sequence between tetrapods and lungfishes, and with it “fin-to-limb transition”.

This discovery has apparently closed the gap between the oldest recorded lungfish fossil and the oldest stem tetrapod from 16 million to around six million years.

The researchers had the following to say about the x-ray image of the fossil skull:

The enlargement of the cerebral hemispheres and the possible presence of the pars tuberalis in this stem-tetrapod indicate that some important brain modifications related to terrestrial life had occurred at the beginning of the tetrapod evolution, much earlier than previously thought.

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