Abstract

Palynological dates unambiguously resolve the stratigraphic age of the East Greenland sedimentary rocks containing the earliest well-preserved tetrapod remains. This is the first time that spore samples have been discovered in the sedimentary succession that has yielded Acanthostega and Ichthyostega, two tetrapods that are regarded as critically important taxa for our understanding of the origin and early evolution of the tetrapods. These palynological assemblages conclusively show that the rocks are Devonian in age. The evidence resolves a 60-year-old dispute regarding the age of these rocks and contradicts a recent controversial study suggesting a much younger (Carboniferous, Viséan) age for these tetrapods. Spore samples bracketing the in situ occurrences of both tetrapod genera place them securely within the Famennian Age of the Devonian Period and at least as old as Famennian 2b. The ages of all known Devonian tetrapods are reviewed and related to a common palynological standard. This review places Ichthyostega and Acanthostega as the earliest of the Famennian tetrapods.

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