Click here to skip to the content

Tynemouth Creek Reptiles

A fossil discovery recently made in the Tynemouth Creek Formation has changed the way that scientists understand the early evolution of life on land. The 318-million-year-old reptile footprints were found in sea-cliffs and show that reptiles were among the first vertebrates (animals with a backbone) to conquer dry continental interiors.  These pioneers paved the way for the diverse ecosystems that exist on land today. It has long been suspected that reptiles were the first to make the continental interiors their home.  This is because reptiles do not need to return to water to breed unlike their amphibian cousins.  The discovery of footprints near Tynemouth Creek supports this idea showing that the reptiles lived on dry river plains hundreds of miles from the sea.

View transcript (Adobe Flash Player, 1 minute 40 seconds, 7.4 MB)

For best viewing of this site, you will need the plugin: Adobe Flash Player

The most abundant and well-preserved tracks comprise five-toed footprints of medium size thought to belong to Pseudobradypus an early amniote (reptile). A second type of track comprises very small four-toed front feet, referred to Batrachichnus, probably a temnospondyl amphibian. A third type of small five-toed footprint showing stubby, widely splayed toes was classified as Baropezia, an anthracosaur. Study of the sediments suggests that the animals lived amongst small trees colonizing the abandoned floor of a seasonally active fixed-channel river.