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Fossil pushes back land-animal debut

Five-toed foot among new finds that help fill in evolutionary picture

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6:57pm, March 5, 2012

A foot buried beneath Scottish soil for at least 345 million years pushes back the timeline for the appearance of the first four-legged creatures that spent their lives on dry land.

“This is the earliest and smallest foot ever found with five digits,” says paleontologist Jennifer Clack of the University of Cambridge, England. “It tells us that terrestrialization occurred much earlier than we had a hint of before.” Feet with five toes tend to be good at bearing weight and rotating on land, she says.

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