Section Three

The Evolution of Early Amniotes

Taking Over the Land: Reptiles and Their Kin

The journey of the tetrapods began with the appearance of limbs to help them move about and ambush prey more readily while still living a waterborne life. From the shallow lakes and streams of Carboniferous forests emerged a variety of amphibians ready to divide their time between life on the land and life in the water— an environment to which it was still necessary to go to breed. The next big leap in the history of tetrapods began about 310 million years ago, in the Late Carboniferous, when a group of small-sized creatures developed adaptations that increasingly distanced them from their ancestral dependency on water for breeding. This latter line of vertebrates was the group known as the amniotes, and it was their new reproductive strategy that would soon place them atop the food chain as the most formidable predators of their age.

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