Tails gave early land animals a leg up

From Cosmos Magazine, July 8, 2016. (Image: Klaus Stiefel via Flickr)

The muscular tails that propelled prehistoric fish through water may have been essential for their move onto land, a study in Science reports.

The transition from life in Earth’s watery depths to life on land occurred roughly 385–360 million years ago. All modern four-limbed land animals – “tetrapods” including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians – can trace their lineage back to pioneering land dwellers from this time.

But how aquatic animals moved about on land has been a matter of speculation. Until now, palaeontologists have largely relied on fossils and track marks to make their predictions. Read more…