Amphibamus (Greek for "equal legs"); pronounced AM-fih-BAY-muss
Swamps of North America and western Europe
Late Carboniferous (300 million years ago)
Size and Weight:
About 6 inches long and a few ounces
Small size; salamander-like body
It's often the case that the genus that lends its name to a family of creatures is the least understood member of that family. In the case of Amphibamus, the story is a bit more complicated; the word "amphibian" was already in wide currency when the famous paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope bestowed this name on a fossil dating from the late Carboniferous period. Amphibamus seems to have been a much smaller version of the larger, crocodile-like "temnospondyl" amphibians (such as Eryops and Mastodonsaurus) that dominated terrestrial life at this time, but it might also have represented the point in evolutionary history when frogs and salamanders split off from the amphibian family tree. Whatever the case, Amphibamus was a small, inoffensive creature, only slightly more sophisticated than its recent tetrapod ancestors.