The postcranial skeleton of the Devonian tetrapod Tulerpeton curtum Lebedev


  • *Dept. Biology, Medawar Building, University College London, Gower St., London WC1E 6BT.


Postcranial remains of the Russian Late Devonian tetrapod Tulerpeton include the hexadactylous fore limb, hind limb, anocleithral pectoral girdle, squamation, and associated disarticulated postcranial bones. A cladistic analysis indicates that Tulerpeton is a reptiliomorph stem-group amniote and the earliest known crown-group tetrapod: Acanthostega and Ichthyostega are successively more derived plesion stem-group tetrapods and do not consititute a monophyletic ichthyostegalian radiation. Previous analyses suggesting a profound split in tetrapod phylogeny are thereby corroborated, and likewise the interpretation of Westlothiana as a stem-group amniote. The divergence of reptiliomorphs from batrachomorphs occurred before the Devonian-Carboniferous boundary. Tulerpeton originates from an entirely aquatic environment with a diverse fish fauna. The morphologies of its limbs and those of Devonian stem-tetrapods suggest that dactyly predates the elaboration of the carpus and tarsus, and that Polydactyly persisted after the evolutionary divergence of the principal lineages of living tetrapods. The apparent absence of a branchial lamina and gill skeleton suggests that Tulerpeton was primarily air-breathing, whereas contemporary stem-group tetrapods and more recent batrachomorphs retained greater emphasis on gill-breathing.