Abstract

The origin of tetrapods from sarcopterygian fish in the Late Devonian is one of the best known major transitions in the history of vertebrates. Unfortunately, extensive gaps in the fossil record of the Lower Carboniferous and Triassic make it very difficult to establish the nature of relationships among Paleozoic tetrapods, or their specific affinities with modern amphibians. The major lineages of Paleozoic labyrinthodonts and lepospondyls are not adequately known until after a 20–30 m.y. gap in the Early Carboniferous fossil record, by which time they were highly divergent in anatomy, ways of life, and patterns of development. An even wider temporal and morphological gap separates modern amphibians from any plausible Permo-Carboniferous ancestors. The oldest known caecilian shows numerous synapomorphies with the lepospondyl microsaur Rhynchonkos. Adult anatomy and patterns of development in frogs and salamanders support their origin from different families of dissorophoid labyrinthodonts. The ancestry of amniotes apparently lies among very early anthracosaurs.

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