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Byrne et al., 2020

Tides: A key environmental driver of osteichthyan evolution and the fish-tetrapod transition?

Byrne, H. M., Green, J. A. M., Balbus, S. A., Ahlberg, P. E.
AjakiriProceedings of the Royal Society A
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Tides are a major component of the interaction between the marine and terrestrial environments, and thus play an important part in shaping the environmental context for the evolution of shallow marine and coastal organisms. Here, we use a dedicated tidal model and palaeogeographic reconstructions from the Late Silurian to early Late Devonian (420 Ma, 400 Ma and 380 Ma, Ma = millions of years ago) to explore the potential significance of tides for the evolution of osteichthyans (bony fish) and tetrapods (land vertebrates). The earliest members of the osteichthyan crown-group date to the Late Silurian, approximately 425 Ma, while the earliest evidence for tetrapods is provided by trackways from the Middle Devonian, dated to approximately 393 Ma, and the oldest tetrapod body fossils are Late Devonian, approximately 373 Ma. Large tidal ranges could have fostered both the evolution of air-breathing organs in osteichthyans to facilitate breathing in oxygen-depleted tidal pools, and the development of weight-bearing tetrapod limbs to aid navigation within the intertidal zones. We find that tidal ranges over 4 m were present around areas of evolutionary significance for the origin of osteichthyans and the fish-tetrapod transition, highlighting the possible importance of tidal dynamics as a driver for these evolutionary processes.

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