The axial skeleton of the Devonian tetrapod Ichthyostega

Nature. 2005 Sep 1;437(7055):137-40. doi: 10.1038/nature03893.


Ichthyostega was the first Devonian tetrapod to be subject to a whole-body reconstruction. It remains, together with Acanthostega, one of only two Devonian tetrapods for which near-complete postcranial material is available. It is thus crucially important for our understanding of the earliest stages of tetrapod evolution and terrestrialization. Here we show a new reconstruction of Ichthyostega based on extensive re-examination of original material and augmented by recently collected specimens. Our reconstruction differs substantially from those previously published and reveals hitherto unrecognized regionalization in the vertebral column. Ichthyostega is the earliest vertebrate to show obvious adaptations for non-swimming locomotion. Uniquely among early tetrapods, the presacral vertebral column shows pronounced regionalization of neural arch morphology, suggesting that it was adapted for dorsoventral rather than lateral flexion.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amphibians / anatomy & histology*
  • Amphibians / physiology
  • Animals
  • Environment
  • Fossils*
  • Hindlimb / anatomy & histology
  • History, Ancient
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Pelvic Bones / anatomy & histology
  • Shoulder / anatomy & histology
  • Skeleton*
  • Skull / anatomy & histology
  • Spine / anatomy & histology
  • Time Factors