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How Vertebrates Left the Water

Michel Laurin

Publication Year: 2010

More than three hundred million years ago—a relatively recent date in the two billion years since life first appeared—vertebrate animals first ventured onto land. This usefully illustrated book describes how some finned vertebrates acquired limbs, giving rise to more than 25,000 extant tetrapod species. Michel Laurin uses paleontological, geological, physiological, and comparative anatomical data to describe this monumental event. He summarizes key concepts of modern paleontological research, including biological nomenclature, paleontological and molecular dating, and the methods used to infer phylogeny and character evolution. Along with a discussion of the evolutionary pressures that may have led vertebrates onto dry land, the book also shows how extant vertebrates yield clues about the conquest of land and how scientists uncover evolutionary history.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v

Contents

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pp. vii-ix

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Preface

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pp. xi-xv

Life appeared in the oceans in a past so distant that it is diffi cult to imagine. The exact age of life on Earth is debated because the structures once considered to represent the oldest fossils (remains of ancient organisms, or traces which they left) have been reinterpreted as mineral crystallization in microscopic fractures by some paleontologists ...

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ONE: HOW CAN WE RECONSTRUCT EVOLUTIONARY HISTORY?

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pp. 1-44

Our first ancestors were all aquatic. The oldest known vertebrates are about 500 Ma old, but the fi rst potentially terrestrial vertebrates are less than 350 Ma old. For more than 150 Ma, our ancestors swam with their fi ns and breathed through their gills; on dry land, these structures were very ineffi cient. Their sensory organs worked poorly in air, ...

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TWO: CONQUEST OF LAND: DATA FROM EXTANT VERTEBRATES

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pp. 45-54

The most direct source of information about the conquest of land by vertebrates is of course the Paleozoic fossil record of limbed vertebrates and their closest fi nned pre de ces sors. However, the extant fauna also yields more indirect clues that are equally informative. Indeed, while fossils tell us about the morphology of extinct species, they often ...

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THREE: PALEONTOLOGICAL CONTEXT

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pp. 55-72

To better understand the conquest of land by vertebrates, we must keep in mind a minimal amount of background information about the development of terrestrial ecosystems. Indeed, without the presence of green plants on continents, animals would have probably not colonized this new habitat, which was so different from the marine environment

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FOUR: VERTEBRATE LIMB EVOLUTION

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pp. 73-97

The limbs are the main locomotory structures in most tetrapods. There are of course exceptions (gymnophionans, snakes, etc.), but most tetrapods walk, run, or fl y using their limbs, which probably played an important role when our ancestors ventured onto land. To understand the colonization of land by vertebrates, we must study the origin ...

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FIVE: DIVERSITY OF PALEOZOIC STEGOCEPHALIANS

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pp. 99-134

Among vertebrates, only stegocephalians have an autopod. Thus, stegocephalians include all terrestrial and most amphibious vertebrates. The main invasion of land by vertebrates occurred in the Carboniferous. To understand this event, a survey of the biodiversity and phylogeny of early stegocephalians is ...

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SIX: ADAPTATIONS TO LIFE ON LAND

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pp. 135-159

When vertebrates ventured onto land, most of their systems (locomotor, respiratory, sensory) and structures (like the skin and axial skeleton) were not optimal for terrestrial life. Life in this new environment must have been fairly diffi cult for these animals, and the selective pressures leading to adaptation to life on land must have been fairly ...

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SEVEN: SYNTHESIS AND CONCLUSION

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pp. 161-167

The data summarized here can be used to present a preliminary reconstruction of the history of the conquest of land by vertebrates (Fig. 7.1). This synthesis suggests that all known Devonian stegocephalians were primitively aquatic. Some Carboniferous taxa, such as Crassigyrinus, baphetids, and colosteids, which were not described in this book, ...

Glossary

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pp. 169-173

Bibliography

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pp. 175-185

Index

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pp. 187-199

Production Notes

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p. 200-200


E-ISBN-13: 9780520947986
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520266476

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2010