Cover image for Gaining ground : the origin and evolution of tetrapods
Gaining ground : the origin and evolution of tetrapods
Clack, Jennifer A., 1937-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Bloomington, Ind. : Indiana University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
viii, 369 pages : illustrations, maps ; 26 cm.
Electronic Access:
Table of contents
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QE852.D5 C57 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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.

Author Notes

Jennifer A. Clack is Reader in Vertebrate Palaeontology and Senior Assistant Curator, University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

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

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Abbreviationsp. ix
1 Introductionp. 1
2 Skulls and Skeletons in Transitionp. 20
3 Relationships and Relatives: The Lobe-Fin Familyp. 46
4 Setting the Scene: The Devonian Worldp. 78
5 The First Feet: Tetrapods of the Famennianp. 105
6 From Fins to Feet: Transformation and Transitionp. 139
7 Emerging into the Carboniferous: The First Phasep. 191
8 East Kirkton and the Roots of the Modern Family Treep. 212
9 The Late Carboniferous: Expanding Horizonsp. 234
10 Gaining Ground: The Evolution of Terrestrialityp. 278
Referencesp. 333
Indexp. 353