Osteolepis panderi Tetrapod Ancestor

This slightly disarticulated Osteolepis panderi (8 cm/3.2 inch) is a fine specimen. It has a sleek body and shows all the fins of the fish.

Would you like to give a really unique present or are you looking to expand your own fossil collection? Look no further! Buy this fossil of our ancient ancestor Osteolepis panderi.


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About Osteolepis panderi  [download id=”662″]

Physical Description

These are small and slender fishes, generally not exceeding 135 mm in length. They are the smallest known osteolepids occurring within the Orcadian Basin. The dorsal fin is located on the middle of the back instead of closer to the tail as with the osteolepid genera Thursius and Gyroptychius. Most O. panderi fossils are disarticulated due to aerobic rotting. Therfore, intact specimens are a rarity.

Age and Distribution

Osteolepis panderi is from the Middle Devonian of Scotland. This fish lived approximately 385 million years ago. At the time this area of Scotland was part of the Orcadian Basin, which was a huge complex of lakes that stretched for hundreds of miles. During this period plants started to rapidly colonize the land and fishes dominated nearly every niche of seas and lakes, hence why this period is also known as the ‘Age of Fishes’. O. panderi co-inhabited the lake with other fishes like the acanthodians Mesacanthus and Diplacanthus, the osteolepids Gyroptychius and Thursius, the porolepid Glyptolepis and the placoderms Dickosteus and Homostius.

About the Osteolepidae

Evolutionary Significance

It is believed that the Osteolepiformes gradually evolved into the first amphibians. Osteolepids have certain features that are also found in the oldest known amphibians. One of the most important is that the bones of their pectoral and pelvic fins were the precursors of terrestrial limbs. A few evolutionary stages further and these fins would evolve into legs used to travel on land. These then became amphibians (tetrapods), which in turn became reptiles, mammals, and eventually us. Fishes like Osteolepis can therefore be regarded as our ancestors.

Another important indication that osteolepids are ancestral to tetrapods is that they most probably possesed an air bladder which also could be used as a respiratory organ. Osteolepids are regarded as a sister-group of the Dipnoi (lungfishes).


Osteolepis panderi belongs to the Osteolepidae which is a subclass of the Crossopterygii (lobe-finned fishes). Other Osteolepidae known from the Middle Devonian of Scotland are: Osteolepis macrolepidotus, Thursius macrolepidotus, Thursius pholidotus, Gyroptychius agassizi and Gyroptychius milleri.