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Panderichthys (Wikimedia Commons)


Panderichthys; pronounced PAN-der-ICK-thiss


Tidal basins of the northern hemisphere

Historical Period:

Middle Devonian (380 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About one foot long and one pound



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large head; anatomically advanced front fins


About Panderichthys:

The slow, gradual progression from prehistoric fish to the earliest tetrapods encompassed numerous intermediate stages, many of them transpiring in the Devonian period. Mostly still a fish, by the modern definition of the word, the 380-million-year-old Panderichthys seems to have just embarked on those anatomical changes that would enable its descendants to crawl up onto dry land 5 or 10 million years later. Notably, the front fins of Panderichthys offered primitive hints of the types of bones found in the limbs of later tetrapods, though its rear fins were less revolutionary. Long story short, it's possible that Pandericthys was able to climb up out of shallow tidal basins and support itself, clumsily, on its front fins for quick gasps of oxygen-rich air.

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