Fossils from Latvia aid evolutionary theory

Fossilized remains of a 365-million-year-old creature first discovered 14 years ago in Latvia help explain how fish evolved into four-legged animals, scientists say in an article published June 26 in the British journal Nature.

The article reports on a new reconstruction of Ventastega curonica, using recently found fossils of a skull, braincase, shoulder girdle and part of the pelvis. The first fossils of the creature, which date from the Late Devonian period, were found in 1994 in sandstone near Pavāri, east of Skrunda along the Ciecere River in Kurzeme.

Ventastega curonica, which lived about 100 million years before dinosaurs, was about 1.3 meters in length and looked something like an alligator, paleontologist Per E. Ahlberg of Sweden’s Uppsala University said in an Associated Press story. Although it would have spent much of its time in or near water, the creature probably had four flippers rather than fins, the scientists suggest.

The scientists used software to help model what Ventastega curonica may have looked like.

The creature, which differs from other finds from around the same period, shows the diversity of evolution from fish to four-legged animals.

Ventastega curonica may represent a transition between fish and four-legged animals, but itself was an “evolutionary dead-end,” according to Ahlberg.

The Nature article, “Ventastega curonica and the origin of tetrapod morphology,” was authored by Ahlberg and Henning Blom of Uppsala University in Sweden, Jennifer A. Clack of the University of Cambridge in Great Britain, Ervīns Lukševičs of the University of Latvia and Ivars Zupiņš of the Natural History Museum of Latvia.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

One thought on “Fossils from Latvia aid evolutionary theory

  1. I was very excited to read this article, in terms of more recent history, wouldn’t it be great if we had a Latvian ‘Time team’, an English programme, (abc, tues nights here in oz) where they have 3 days to dig up someone’s garden or field to reveal historical treasures lurking beneath the soil.

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