330 Million Year Old Amphibian Imprints Discovered

This is cool! Science Daily is reporting on the discovery of 330 million year old fossil imprints discovered in Pennsylvania. The imprints are not actually fossils in the sense of being mineralized bone, rather they seem to be natural molds of the animals in question.

Here is a picture:
The finds were presented earlier today at annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver. Paleontologists will be able to learn some interesting things about the amphibians in the early Mississippian:

Without the imprints of the webbed four-toed feet, for instance, it would be virtually impossible to say they were truly amphibians. The imprints also provide body proportions and important clues to the kind of outer skin the little beasts had. The skin is smooth, not armor plated as many would have expected, Lucas said.

There were other finds as well, including footprints of large animals, fossil plants, fossil insects and, most interesting:

There is even a saucer-sized footprint of an unknown vertebrate that suggests larger four-footed beasts lived far earlier than ever before suspected.

13 Responses

  1. Beautiful!

  2. I love this stuff! Just when you think you’ve got a firm grasp on what’s what, something like this comes along to make you say, “WOW!”

  3. Eh. I hate to be the turd in the punchbowl but I’m kind of underwhelmed. Could this be a case of professional pareidolia? Just aksin’

  4. Hyena middens found in Spain 1.8 Mya

  5. Well actually, while the animals were amphibians, they were not Amphibians. True Amphibians would not appear until much later. Properly speaking what the researchers found are known as tetrapods. Tetrapods being amphibious animals which gave rise to Reptiles, Mammals, and Amphibians. The first two going through an amniote phase which is considered by most paleontologist the point where the split between Reptiles and Mammals occurred, though there are those who think that split happened back in tetrapod times. Just a few things I’ve picked up in my haphazard intellectual travels.

  6. Technically, they are temnospondyls – which are, of course, amphibians.

  7. Technically, they are temnospondyls – which are, of course, amphibians.

  8. Afarensis,
    The identification of temnospondyls with the amphibian taxon has been questioned by a number of researchers in the field. For one thing, the group isn’t even ancestral to modern amphibians, and doesn’t even share a number of basal traits.
    They are part of that grand, paraphyletic group known as tetrapods, but that’s pretty much a catch all term for terrestrial vertebrates living before the amniotes appeared on the scene. Identifying temnospondyls with salamanders, frogs, and caecilians is a hold over from earlier days.

  9. I know of a number of paleontologists who do consider them amphibians. Granted there is some controversy over it…

  10. That picture is screwing with my eyes. At first I thought that the amphibian shape was sticking out from the rock, but then I realized it was pressed into the rock.

  11. Well, considering that, these days, birds are Reptiles and turtles are not, I stay fairly calm about amphibian or not. But I think Tetrapods includes all four-legged folk, and those, snakes for example, who had four-legged ancestors. Take a look at the Tree of Life sites.

  12. I can’t see the scale clearly. Does that say five inches?

  13. No, it’s centimeters. You can see a hi-res picture of the find here.

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