Congratulations to Ben Otoo for publishing his first thesis chapter, “The postcranial anatomy of Whatcheeria deltae and its implications for the family Whatcheeriidae” in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society!
Whatcheeria is a stem tetrapod from the Mississippian (c. 330 MYA) of Iowa. Named by Eric Lombard and John Bolt in 1995 (2nd oldest NA tetrapod at the time!). It’s been a standard fixture for years, and despite a general ‘primitive stem tetrapod’ mostly-consensus there’s been some uncertainty about its relationships and how it fits into the broader picture (a Devonian holdover? Part of a grade?). We set out to describe the postcranial skeleton in detail using all the specimens we had. Which is A Lot- probably upwards of 350(!), all at the Field Museum. Some highlights: flat feet! Big limbs! A long neck! A regionalized ribcage! Overall the anatomy suggests a walking animal, and body proportions are (somewhat) convergent with terrestrial temnospondyls and stem amniotes. However! Other features like the mostly-cartilaginous ankles and cranial lateral line indicate that it was probably doing its walking underwater (probably a more common- and transferable- activity than we’d thought…). We also talk about ontogenetic variation in Whatcheeria, as well as other ‘whatcheeriid’ specimens and taxa- what *is* a whatcheeriid anyway? Well we’ve got some thoughts about that… This project has been a massive part of my life over the last few years, but it would’ve been impossible without so many others, from curators to prep crews to the many folks whose ears I bent. John Bolt unfortunately passed away before completion; we dedicate the paper to him.
And the reviews are in: