The First Tetrapod Finds from the Devonian (Upper Famennian) of Latvia

Per Erik Ahlberg, Ervins Luksevics, Oleg Lebedev


Ventastega curonica, from the Upper Famennian Ketleri Formation, is the first tetrapod find from the Upper Devonian of Latvia, and only the fourth adequately represented Devonian tetrapod genus to be described. The taxon is represented by disarticulated cranial and postcranial elements from two localities, Ketleri on the Venta River and Pavari on the Ciecere River. A second tetrapod, represented by a single mandibular fragment, appears to be present at Ketleri. The lower jaw of Ventastega is strikingly primitive in retaining fangs on the coronoid series, but shares many characters with those of other known Devonian tetrapods. Some of these features are interpreted as basal tetrapod synapomorphies; they provide a new data set for the identification of isolated tetrapod jaw fragments, and confirm the (previously disputed) tetrapod status of Metaxygnathus. The upper jaw bones of Ventastega are broadly similar to those of Acanthostega, Ichthyostega and Tulerpeton, as is the narial region. The lateral rostral bone is either very small or absent. A preopercular bone is present in the cheek, and the lacrimal is excluded from the orbit. The palate is closed. Palatine and vomer bear fangs which are set in the marginal tooth row. An isolated iliac blade from Pavari, probably attributable to Ventastega, resembles that of Acanthostega but may not have carried a dorsal process. Two clavicles from Pavari and Ketleri which may also belong to Ventastega are of a typical early tetrapod pattern, similar to Greerpeton but with a broader ventral blade. Non-attributable or doubtfully attributable bones from Ketleri include a probable tetrapod postorbital and a possible limb bone. Ventastega appears to be a tetrapod of the same broad `grade' as Ichthyostega and Acanthostega, but is arguably more primitive than either.

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