Tetrapod trackways from the early Middle Devonian period of Poland. 2010. Nature 463: 43-48.
Tiktaalik, about 380 million years ago.
Now, a new study describes a rich and securely dated footprint locality from Zachelmie Quarry in Poland that pushes back the origin of tetrapods a full 18 million years beyond the earliest skeletal evidence and forces a dramatic reassessment of the transition from water to land.
This means not that not only tetrapods but also elpistostegids originated much earlier than we thought, because the position of elpistostegids as evolutionary precursors of tetrapods is not in doubt, and so they must have existed at least as long, says Per Ahlberg.
The elpistostegids, it seems, were not at all a short-lived transitional stage but must have existed alongside their descendants the tetrapods for at least 10 million years. The environment is also a major surprise: almost all previous scenarios for the origin of tetrapods have placed this event in a freshwater setting and have associated it with the development of land vegetation and a terrestrial ecosystem.
Instead, our distant ancestors may first have left the water in order to feed on stranded marine life left behind by the receding tide. link