The most primitive foot to walk on land was
described by scientists in the release of a report in 2002.
It belonged to an animal that lived about 345
million years ago in what is now Scotland. The skeletal remains
were the oldest found to date in the fossil record to show bones
that had the ability to move on land. Dr Jenny Clack, who studied
the specimen, said it illustrated how life on Earth had made the
transition from a purely water-borne existence to one in which
creatures were able to forage on the shoreline.
'This is the first proper, walking foot,' she said.
'We have earlier feet, but they were for paddling - for swimming.'
The fossil was unearthed in 1971 from limestone
deposits to the north of Dumbarton. Held at the Hunterian Museum in
Glasgow, it was thought to be a fish. Only more recently was the
surrounding rock cleared away sufficiently to reveal a creature with
legs. One hind limb had a near-complete foot attached with five
It was classified as Pederpes finneyae. It
was a short-limbed, large-skulled predator, about a metre in length
(three feet) and may have had the look of an ungainly crocodile. It
was probably quite a sluggish crawler through the swamps in which it
lived. The identification helped to close a hole in the early fossil
record of a group of creatures called tetrapods - backboned animals
with four legs or limbs.
The oldest-known tetrapods date to the Devonian
period (more than 360 million years ago), but the fossils discovered
up to the time of writing were of animals that were clearly all
swimmers. These creatures would have scuttled around just under the
water. Later tetrapods, from the Upper Carboniferous (about 340
million years ago), were modern-looking amphibian-like animals whose
appendages were well-evolved for walking on land. They were true