Tetrapod trackways from the early Middle Devonian period of Poland

Nature. 2010 Jan 7;463(7277):43-8. doi: 10.1038/nature08623.


The fossil record of the earliest tetrapods (vertebrates with limbs rather than paired fins) consists of body fossils and trackways. The earliest body fossils of tetrapods date to the Late Devonian period (late Frasnian stage) and are preceded by transitional elpistostegids such as Panderichthys and Tiktaalik that still have paired fins. Claims of tetrapod trackways predating these body fossils have remained controversial with regard to both age and the identity of the track makers. Here we present well-preserved and securely dated tetrapod tracks from Polish marine tidal flat sediments of early Middle Devonian (Eifelian stage) age that are approximately 18 million years older than the earliest tetrapod body fossils and 10 million years earlier than the oldest elpistostegids. They force a radical reassessment of the timing, ecology and environmental setting of the fish-tetrapod transition, as well as the completeness of the body fossil record.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chordata / anatomy & histology
  • Chordata / physiology*
  • Extremities / anatomy & histology
  • Extremities / physiology
  • Fishes / anatomy & histology
  • Fishes / physiology
  • Fossils*
  • Gait / physiology*
  • History, Ancient
  • Models, Biological
  • Phylogeny
  • Poland