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Example text

We are beginning to find exceptions to this generalist rule, however. One is Livoniana, discovered in a museum in Latvia by Per Erik Ahlberg of Sweden’s Uppsala University in 2000. This animal is represented by some lower jaw fragments that exhibit a bizarre morphology: instead of the usual two rows of teeth lining each side of the jaw, it had seven rows. Exactly what Livoniana might have been consuming with this corn-onthe-cob dentition we do not know. But it most likely had a diet apart from that of its brethren.

We are learning to expect more such surprises as these animals and their relatives become better known. Have Legs, Will Travel t h e fo s si l s u n c ov e r e d over the past two decades have done more than allowed scientists to trace many of the changes to the tetrapod skeleton. They have also provided fresh insights into when and where these creatures evolved. We are now reasonably certain that tetrapods had emerged by 380 million to 375 million years ago, in the late Middle Devonian, a far tighter date range than the one researchers had previously postulated.

The scapula soon became longer and narrower; the coracoid also thinned and elongated, stretching toward the breastbone. The clavicles fused at the midline and broadened to form a boomerang-shaped wishbone. The sternum, which consisted originally of cartilage, calcified into two fused bony plates in tetanurans. Together these changes strengthened the skeleton; later this strengthening was used to reinforce the flight apparatus and support the flight muscles. The new wishbone, for instance, probably became an anchor for the muscles that moved the forelimbs, at first during foraging and then during flight.

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