Ventastega

Name: Ventastega ‭(‬Venta roof‭)‬.
Phonetic: Ven-tah-steg-ah.
Named By: Ahlberg,‭ ‬Luksevics‭ & ‬Lebedev‭ ‬-‭ ‬1994.‭
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Amphibia,‭ ‬Tetrapoda,‭ ‬Sarcopterygii.
Species: V.‭ ‬curonica (type).
Diet: Piscivore/Carnivore.
Size: Estimated‭ ‬1‭ ‬meter long.‭ ‬Skull‭ ‬20‭ ‬centimetres long.
Known locations: Latvia‭ ‬-‭ ‬Katleri Formation.
Time period: Famennian of the Devonian.
Fossil representation: Almost complete skull and a few parts of the post cranial skeleton,‭ ‬including parts of the shoulder and pelvis.

       'Discovered‭' ‬in a museum draw and named after the Venta River,‭ ‬Ventastega is a partially preserved amphibian tetrapod.‭ ‬Although very poorly preserved,‭ ‬there have been enough skeletal elements recovered to show that Ventastega had legs.‭ ‬These post cranial elements along with the quite well preserved skull suggest that Ventastega was more amphibian than fish,‭ ‬although it is hard to be certain to just quite how well developed it was.‭
       Given its place in the fossil record,‭ ‬Ventastega would have been a primarily aquatic predator that specialised in hunting fish,‭ ‬but may have also included other prey such as very small and juvenile amphibians.‭ ‬The teeth of Ventastega were mostly small but numerous,‭ ‬the largest of which were in the upper jaw at the premaxilla and forward portion of the maxilla.‭ ‬These teeth were up to roughly double the size of the others and would have been for primarily seizing prey whereas the smaller teeth were more for gripping prey.‭ ‬This might suggest that prey like fish were manipulated in the mouth so that they were swallowed head first.‭ ‬This would avoid any spines that may have protruded from the fish getting stuck in Ventastega throat and digestive system.
       The limbs although largely unknown would almost certainly have been‭ ‬only developed to be just good enough to push itself along the ground,‭ ‬and it is possible that Ventastega may never have left the water completely,‭ ‬the limbs evolving more for navigating submerged‭ ‬obstacles and shallows.

Further reading
- The First Tetrapod Finds from the Devonian (Upper Famennian) of Latvia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: - Biological Sciences 343(1305):303-328. - P. E. Ahlberg, E. Luksevics & O. Lebedev - 1994.
- Ventastega curonica and the origin of tetrapod morphology. - Nature 453 (7199): 1199–1204. - Per. E. Ahlberg, Jennifer A. Clack, Ervīns Lukševičs, Henning Blom & Ivars Zupiņš - 2008.


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