Gaining Ground: The Origin and Early Evolution of Tetrapods

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9780253340542: Gaining Ground: The Origin and Early Evolution of Tetrapods
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Around 370 million years ago, a distant relative of a modern lungfish began the most exciting adventure the world had ever seen: it emerged from the water and laid claim to the land. Over the next 70 million years, this tentative beachhead became a worldwide colonization by an ever-increasing variety of four-limbed life. These first ""tetrapods"" are the ancestors of all vertebrate life on land. Gaining Ground tells the rich and complex story of their emergence and evolution. Beginning with their closest relatives, the lobefin fishes such as lungfishes and coelacanths, Jennifer A. Clack defines the characteristics of tetrapods, describing their anatomy and explaining how they are related to other vertebrates.

Clack looks at the Devonian environment in which tetrapods evolved, describes the known species, and explores the order and timing of anatomical changes that occurred during the fish-to-tetrapod transition. She reports that older ideas about the transition are being overturned by recent discoveries and new ideas about evolutionary change. Following the story through the Carboniferous period, she shows how the evolution of terrestrial characters occurred several times, convergently, among different groups.

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About the Author:

JENNIFER A. CLACK is Reader in Vertebrate Palaeontology and Senior Assistant Curator, University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, and author of numerous papers on Devonian and Carboniferous life. A shorter version of Gaining Ground was published in Japanese in 2000.

Review:

"This well-illustrated microcosm of vertebrate paleontology provides exciting glimpses of what research in this field is about." -- F. S. Szalay, University of New Mexico, Choice, December 2002



Clack (University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, UK) offers an esoteric and interesting volume that treats a critical period in vertebrate evolution from both the paleontological and ecological perspective. It is, as the author prefaces, a summary of her researches in early tetrapod paleontology. The transition of vertebrates from an aquatic to a terrestrial environment has been rightfully considered one of the most important changes that have taken place in the morphological and behavioral transformation of vertebrate animals. The demands of this transition affected all the various organ systems of the lineages that undertook this evolutionary adventure. As paleontological discoveries continued throughout the past 150 years, so did the ideas about the nature of this transformation. In the context of tracing old ideas and presenting new ones based on an ever-increasing fossil record, Clack presents details of the evolutionary modifications for the skull and limbs and provides excellent characterizations of the Devonian and Carboniferous environments, the context of most of the paleontological evidence. This well-illustrated microcosm of vertebrate paleontology provides exciting glimpses of what research in this field is about. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through faculty.F. S. Szalay, University of New Mexico, Choice, December 2002



"The questions of our ancestry are far-reaching and oft argued. In Gaining Ground, Clack offers a new synthesis that demystifies many of the puzzles and cuts straight to the facts." --

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