The Daily Telegraph

Skull bones size key to evolution

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The first land animals had fewer skull bones than fish – restrictin­g their evolution for millions of years, according to a new study.

Tetrapods were the earliest recorded creature to roam the Earth, having evolved from lobe-finned fish around 390million years ago in the middle of the Devonian period. They are widely considered to be the first land animals to have limbs and digits – making them the ancestors of everything from amphibians to humans.

As such, the four-limbed vertebrate­s are part of the superclass “Tetrapoda”, which comprises all extinct and existing amphibians, reptiles, and mammals – including the dinosaurs.

In order to further understand this initial transition, British scientists analysed the skulls of more than 100 living and fossilised animals. James Rawson, of the University of Bristol, who led the study, said: “We used a technique called network analysis.”*

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