Stem tetrapoda

The Stem Tetrapoda are a cladistically defined group, consisting of all animals more closely related to extant four-legged vertebrates than to their closest extant relatives (the lungfish), but excluding the crown group Tetrapoda. They are thus paraphyletic, though acceptable in phylogenetic nomenclature as the group is defined by strict reference to phylogeny rather than to traits as in traditional systematics. Thus, some finned sarcopterygians are considered to be stem tetrapods.

Tiktaalik, a tetrapodomorph with wrists, straddles the fish-tetrapod divide

Content of the groupEdit

Stem tetrapods are members of Tetrapodomorpha, the total group and clade that also includes their descendants, the crown tetrapods:[1]

The stem Tetrapoda encompass three distinct grades successively closer to crown group Tetrapoda:[2]

Both Ichthyostegalia and Labyrinthodontia constitute paraphyletic evolutionary grades rather than clades, with amniotes and modern amphibians branching off at some point from the latter. The stem tetrapods may also include one or both of Temnospondyli and Lepospondyli, depending on author. This is due to the uncertain origin of the modern amphibians, whose position in the phylogenetic tree dictates what lineages go in the crown group Tetrapoda.[3][4] Neither is there for the moment a consensus of the phylogeny of stem tetrapods, nor how Tetrapoda itself should be defined (i.e. as a crown group, or as an apomorphy-based group, using the limb with digits),[5] making the actual content of the group uncertain.[6][7][8]


  1. ^ a b Coates, M.I.; Ruta, M.; Friedman, M. (2008). "Ever Since Owen: Changing Perspectives on the Early Evolution of Tetrapods" (PDF). Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 39: 571–92. doi:10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.38.091206.095546. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 October 2013.
  2. ^ Ahlberg, P. E.; Johanson, Z. (1998). "Osteolepiforms and the ancestry of tetrapods" (PDF). Nature. 395 (6704): 792–794. Bibcode:1998Natur.395..792A. doi:10.1038/27421. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 March 2017.
  3. ^ Sigurdsen T, Green D (2011). "The origin of modern amphibians: a re-evaluation". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 162 (2): 457–469. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2010.00683.x.
  4. ^ Marjanović, D; Laurin, M (2013). "The origin(s) of extant amphibians: a review with emphasis on the "lepospondyl hypothesis"". Geodiversitas. 35: 207–272. doi:10.5252/g2013n1a8.
  5. ^ Laurin, M; Anderson, JS (2004). "Meaning of the name Tetrapoda in the scientific literature: an exchange". Systematic Biology. 53 (1): 68–80. doi:10.1080/10635150490264716. PMID 14965901.
  6. ^ Carroll, R.L. (2001). "The origin and early radiation of terrestrial vertebrates" (PDF). Journal of Paleontology. 75 (6): 1202–1213. doi:10.1666/0022-3360(2001)075<1202:toaero>;2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-30.
  7. ^ Laurin, M. (1996): Phylogeny of Stegocephalians, from the Tree of Life Web Project
  8. ^ Laurin, M (1998). "The importance of global parsimony and historical bias in understanding tetrapod evolution. Part I. Systematics, middle ear evolution, and jaw suspension". Annales des Sciences Naturelles, Zoologie, Paris, 13e Série. 19: 1–42. doi:10.1016/S0003-4339(98)80132-9.