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Article: A new Mississippian tetrapod from Fife, Scotland, and its environmental context

Papers in Palaeontology - Volume 3 Part 4 - Cover
Publication: Papers in Palaeontology
Volume: 3
Part: 4
Publication Date: November 2017
Page(s): 547 557
Author(s): Timothy R. Smithson, Michael A. E. Browne, Sarah J Davies, John E. A. Marshall, David Millward, Stig A. Walsh, and Jennifer A. Clack
DOI: 10.1002/spp2.1086
Addition Information

How to Cite

SMITHSON, T.R., BROWNE, M.A.E., DAVIES, S.J., MARSHALL, J.E.A., MILLWARD, D., WALSH, S.A., CLACK, J.A. 2017. A new Mississippian tetrapod from Fife, Scotland, and its environmental context. Papers in Palaeontology, 3, 4, 547-557. DOI: 10.1002/spp2.1086

Author Information

  • Timothy R. Smithson - University Museum of Zoology Cambridge UK (Email:
  • Michael A. E. Browne - British Geological Survey The Lyell Centre Edinburgh UK
  • Sarah J Davies - Department of Geology University of Leicester Leicester UK
  • John E. A. Marshall - School of Ocean & Earth Science National Oceanography Centre University of Southampton Southampton UK
  • David Millward - British Geological Survey The Lyell Centre Edinburgh UK
  • Stig A. Walsh - Department of Natural Sciences National Museums Scotland Edinburgh UK
  • Jennifer A. Clack - University Museum of Zoology Cambridge UK

Publication History

  • Issue published online: 09 November 2017
  • Manuscript Accepted: 29 June 2017
  • Manuscript Received: 11 April 2017

Funded By

Natural Environment Research Council. Grant Numbers: NE/J020621/1, NE/J020729/1, NE/J021091/1, NE/J022713/1, NEJ021067/1

Online Version Hosted By

Wiley Online Library (Open Access)
Get Article: Wiley Online Library [Open Access]


The Visean stage of the Mississippian was a time of rapid tetrapod diversification which marks the earliest appearance of temnospondyls, microsaurs and the limbless aïstopods. Tetrapod finds from this stage are very rare and only a dozen sites are known worldwide. Here we announce the discovery of a new Visean site in Fife, Scotland, of Asbian age, and from it describe a new species of the baphetoid Spathicephalus. These specimens represent the oldest known baphetoid by three million years, yet belong to the most specialized members of the clade. Unlike typical baphetoids with large marginal teeth and palatal fangs characteristic of early tetrapods, spathicephalids had very broad flattened heads with a dentition consisting of a large number of small, uniform teeth. Spathicephalids were probably one of the earliest tetrapod groups to use suction feeding on small, aquatic prey. Palynological and sedimentological analysis indicates that the new fossil bed was deposited in a large, stratified, freshwater lake that became increasingly saline.

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