Keraterpeton galvani here was part of a group of amphibian-like early tetrapods called lepospondyls.
Living in what is now southern Ireland during the Late Carboniferous, about 318-314 million years ago, this 30-40cm long (~1′-1’4″) fully aquatic animal was the earliest known member of the diplocaulid lineage (although its skull was much less elaborately modified than its famous boomerang-headed relative Diplocaulus).
It had a broad short-snouted head with eyes set far forward, and a pair of backwards-pointing bony “horns” at the back of its skull. Its forelimbs were smaller than its hindlimbs, and unlike most other diplocaulids it had five fingers on its hands instead of four.
Its vertically flattened paddle-like tail was also around twice as long as the rest of its body, and was probably its main source of propulsion in the water.
Keraterpeton seems to have been quite numerous in the coal swamps it inhabited, representing the most common species preserved in the Irish Jarrow Assemblage site – a location where fossil specimens were uniquely “cooked” and partially replaced with coal during the fossilization process.
The tuzoiids were an enigmatic group of Cambrian invertebrates known mostly just from their spiny bivalved carapaces. Although hundreds of fossils of these arthropods were discovered over the last century or so, only vague fragments of the rest of their bodies have been found even in sites usually known for preserving soft tissue impressions.
…Until late 2022, when several new specimens from the Canadian Burgess Shale deposits (~508 million years ago) were described showing tuzoiid anatomy in exceptional detail, finally giving us an idea of what they looked like and where they fit into the early arthropod evolutionary tree.
Tuzoiids like Tuzoia burgessensis here would have grown up to about 23cm long (~9″). They had large eyes on short stalks, a pair of simple antennae, a horizontal fluke-like tail fan, and twelve pairs of appendages along their body – with the front two pairs at the head end being significantly spinier, and most (or all) of these limbs also bearing paddle-like exopods.
The large carapace enclosed most of the body, and was ornamented with protective spines and a net-like surface pattern that probably increased the strength of the relatively thin chitinous structure.
Together all these anatomical features now indicate that tuzoiids were early mandibulates (part of the lineage including modern myriapods, crustaceans, and insects), and were probably very closely related to the hymenocarines.
Tuzoiids seem to have been active swimmers that probably cruised around just above the seafloor, with their stout legs suggesting they could also walk around if they flexed their valves open. The arrangement of their spiny front limbs wasn’t suited to grabbing at fast-swimming prey, but instead may have been used to capture slower seafloor animals or to scavenge from carcasses.
Diprotodontids were large herbivorous marsupials distantly related to modern wombats and koalas, with some species reaching body sizes comparable to rhinos.
Ambulator keanei here was a mid-sized example, closer to bear-sized at around 1m tall at the shoulder (~3’3″). It lived in South Australia during the Pliocene, about 3.9-3.6 million years ago, at a time when the climate was becoming drier and the local habitat was shifting towards open grasslands – and so it was was one of the first diprotodontids known to have specialized its limb anatomy for more efficient long-distance walking.
A bone in its wrist was modified into a heel-like structure, and skin impressions show large cushioning fleshy pads on the undersides of its feet. Its feet were also rotated to bear weight mainly on the outside edges, similar to the condition seen in some ground sloths, and its fingers and toes appear to have been held raised up off the ground while walking.
Rechnisaurus cristarhynchus here was a member of the dicynodonts, a group of stocky herbivorous beaky-jawed synapsids that were distantly related to modern mammals. Living in what is now eastern India during the Middle Triassic, about 247-242 million years ago, it’s only known from a single fossil skull – but based on the body proportions of better-known close relatives like Kannemeyeria it was probably somewhere around 1.2m long (~4′).
It had a raised bony crest running down the middle of its snout, with deep bowl-like depressions on either side that probably served to make the crest seem visually larger it already was. (They probably didn’t house any weird soft-tissue structures, however, since these type of dicynodonts tended to have very extensive keratinous coverings over their snouts.)
It also had raised bony areas around its parietal eye, and extensive bony flanges covering most of its tusks giving its face a sort of jowly appearance. All these features were probably for visual display and may have been brightly colored in life.
And, while I usually like to reconstruct dicynodonts as extensively fluffy… recently some fossil specimens of Lystrosaurus have been found showing bumpy leathery skin impressions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all dicynodonts were hairless (especially since there are still those Permian coprolites), but since kannemeyeriiformes like Rechnisaurus were quite closely related to Lystrosaurus, I’ve gone with no fuzz at all on this one.