Oldest 4-Legged Creature Found

Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 26th, 2008

new fossil

Ventastega curonica would have looked similar to a small alligator.

Scientists unearthed a skull of the most primitive four-legged creature in history, said a study in the June 26, 2008 issue of the journal Nature.

The well-preserved remains, discovered from 370-million-year-old rocks in the country of Latvia, has features of both water (fish) and land (reptilian) animals.

The fierce-looking creature probably swam through shallow brackish waters, measured about one meter long and ate other fish, scientists said in the study.

“If you saw it from a distance, it would look like a small alligator, but if you look closer you would find a fin in the back. In terms of construction, it had already undergone most of the changes from fish towards land animal, but in terms of lifestyle you are still looking at an animal that is habitually aquatic.” said Per Ahlberg, a professor of evolutionary biology at Uppsala University in Sweden.

It has long been accepted that all land animals with backbones — including humans — are descended from one small group of fish that left the water about 365 million years ago.

This suggests our understanding of the evolutionary transition from fish to tetrapod is beginning to face review.

Ahlberg points to the discovery of a fossil called Tiktaalik in Canada in 2004. It is believed to be the “missing link” in the gap between fish and land mammals.

Ventastega is a later species but is a more primitive form of transition animal.

Ventastega fills the gap between Tiktaalik and the earliest land based mammals. All these changes in these creatures are not going in lockstep; it’s a mosaic with different parts of animal evolving at different rates. Ventastega has acquired some of land-animal characteristics, but has not yet got some of the other ones.”

For instance, the creature had primitive feet – but with a high number of digits.

“I would draw the inference that Ventastega probably had limbs very much like Acanthostega (another transitional species). These were little things sticking out of the sides, with a strangely high number of digits. You would have seven, eight, maybe even nine toes per foot, rather than five or so which you would expect to find in modern day animals,” Ahlberg said.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

10 Responses to “Oldest 4-Legged Creature Found”

  1. samspotter responds:

    Another transitional species? Pardon me if I’m completely wrong, but aren’t we all transitional species? If evolution is ongoing and constant, how can you define a specific point of transition? Or is “transitional species” a term used to refer to all species that existed between the beginning of time and the present day?

    Interesting article, by the way.

  2. M17hrandir responds:

    I find it hard to believe that this piece of a skull tells us this much about an unknown animal. There is no way to tell if it had a fin, or how long it actually was, or its behaviors at all. So where do scientists come up with the ideas that this is the missing link, if you only have part of a skull?

  3. Andrew Minnesota responds:

    There is more information out there if you take the time to look, more has been found than just a skull

    “The new remains — including most of the creature’s skull, the braincase, half of the bones in its forelimb and a quarter of its pelvic girdle”


    The article that I took that quote from (link above) also says that there have been some skeletal fragments found in the past.

  4. bigfootsdad responds:

    M17hrandir – You beat me to the same response. Man, you talk about “tall tales.”

  5. Andrew Minnesota responds:

    There is more information out there if you take the time to look, more has been found than just a skull

    “The new remains — including most of the creature’s skull, the braincase, half of the bones in its forelimb and a quarter of its pelvic girdle”

    The article that I took that quote from also says that there have been some skeletal fragments found in the past.

    I tried to post this comment with a link but it doesn’t seem to be working so if you want to check it out and get a little more information the website is sciencenews.org and the article titled “Fossil Helps Document Shift From Sea To Land” Date: June 25th, 2008

    To find it in the first place all I did was type in “Ventastega” into google.

  6. CamperGuy responds:

    I disagree with “transitional species” since I am a non-evolutionist but the concept is pretty simple.

    Ventastega curonica is interesting regardless the point of view.

    I now know what a tetrapod is.

    Learned a bit about the Devonian Period.

    I don’t understand how Tiktaalik “evolved” into tetrapods on at least two seperate land masses. Wouldn’t that be a bit like humans “evolving” in Africa and North America seperately? Is that likley in evolutionary theory?

  7. erykmynn responds:

    Usually if they use the term “transitional species” what they mean is that it lies somewhere between two modern groups that are linked in the past but far separated today.

    samspotter is right in that all species are transitioning all the time. The use here implies that this creature may be a bridge between fishes and legged animals. He exhibits characteristics of both in some way that would be a ‘grey area’ yet little grey area exists anymore as land animals and fishes are, for the most part, quite distinct.

    Kind of a more accurate and less silly way of saying “missing link”

  8. erykmynn responds:


    Land masses have collided and split apart over the years…. The world did not always look as it is today.

  9. CamperGuy responds:

    “Land masses have collided and split apart over the years….”

    I agree.

    Tiktaalik was a species on at least two seperated landmasses of the three at the time. I don’t know of Australia and North America land masses rejoining.
    I think it odd a species seperated from its fellows followed a similar path to become tetrapods.
    In my opinion this “transitional species” poses more questions for evolutionary theory than answers.

  10. samspotter responds:

    Got it. Thanks, erykmynn, for clearing that up for me.

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