15 million years of evolution gone missing? Who ya gonna call?

The answer is TWeed- 
a collaboration led by the Uni of Cambridge with members from BGS, National Museums Scotland, Uni of Southampton and Uni of Leicester.

TWeed is going to discover the missing links to how modern species (including you and me) evolved from 359 million year old limbed vertebrates (aka Tetrapods).

The information should be found in the fossil record but there's a great big gap - named Romer's Gap. 

Romer's Gap -begins after the mass extinction around the end of the Devonian

Romer's Gap begins with the mass extinction at the end of the Devonian. Before this extinction most tetrapods were fish-like but during the following 15-20 million years the land based tetrapods diversified and flourished.

The problem with figuring out how land based creatures evolved during that gap is that there have been no fossil tetrapods discovered from Romer's Gap... until now!! For the first time anywhere in the world, NEW localities of Romer's Gap fossils have been discovered and they consist of NEW tetrapods, fish, invertebrates and plants!!

(above) Semi-articulated skeletal remains of a small tetrapod from the borders, named as 'Ribbo'; skull bones to the left, hind legs to the right (below) Reconstruction of 'Ribbo' the terestrial tetrapod from Romer's Gap (approx 80cm long)

So the TWeed project WILL (i'm a positive thinker) discover crucial, and previously unknown, information about the early evolution of land animals using newly discovered fossil tetrapods from Romer's Gap! The 'scottish' tetrapods that the TWeed team uncover and study will complete our understanding of their evolution- including the eventual appearance of us humans!!

The project had just begun but it's already getting a lot of people excited... not least the scientists working on it:

The TWeed Team at a meeting in July 2012

There will be a lot more information distributed by the TWeed team in the coming months so keep your eyes on these places for information:
  • RIGHT HERE!! The BGS blog
  •  www.tetrapodworld.com (a blog written by Carys Bennett a geoscientist from the University of Leicester) 
  • Twitter @TetrapodWorld (also managed by Carys)
  • coming soon.... a dedicated TWeed website
A great story about the project is here on PlanetEarth Online

BGS Dr Dave Millward was at the Murchison House Open Day last weekend and says 
"[we] were on hand to talk about the display of fossils collected by Stan Wood from the Scottish Borders. These are just a few of the many specimens already collected and which will form the heart of our investigations. An accompanying poster explained the significance of Romer’s Gap and set the context for these extraordinary and unique finds. The exhibition included not only tetrapod material but examples of fish, shrimps, millipedes and a scorpion. The display attracted a lot of interest and questions from visitors, including some from the Borders area. Offers of help were gratefully received and many indicated that they would be back next year for an update!"

Myself [Dr Millward] showing some of our tetrapods - fish, shrimp, millipedes, scorpion