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Borders village solves missing link in evolution

One of the fossils found Credit: National Museums of Scotland

The answer to how pre-historic animals made it from the water to land has been discovered in the Scottish Borders.

Fossils belonging to a small amphibian with limbs were found on a beach at Burnmouth and now a team of experts are working to fill a gap in knowledge which dates back 15 million years.

Searching for fossils Credit: STAN WOOD

Burnmouth is now firmly on the palaeontology map. It was here that a self-taught palaeontologist called Stan Wood identified a piece of rock that contained the vital missing answer.

"There was a gap in the fossil records, and this is what Stan sought to fill and he filled it in spades. It took him a long time but he just kept that perseverance and he had that eye and that knack for seeing these things.

"It's a result of his work that this team, this major team of scientists from the UK got together. So he was instrumental in getting this group together, getting this work underway

– Nick Fraser, Keeper of Natural Sciences, National Museums Scotland

The discovery has been hailed as monumental for the understanding of how these creatures, known as tetrapods, ended up on land.

"These rocks are telling us the history of how animals with back bones moved from water onto land. A step, a pivotal step of the history of life on earth.

"Because without this step, there'd be no crocodiles no mammals. There'd be no birds, there'd be no frogs. We wouldn't be here. So pivotal and the story is really being told in Burnmouth and the Borders."

– Nick Fraser, Keeper of Natural Sciences, National Museums Scotland

The studies of the 360 million year old rocks could go on for a decade, due to the slow nature of the work.

The beach at Burnmouth Credit: ITV BORDER

"We have to be very careful, these fossils are incredibly important. We've been looking for these for decades, well many, many decades. It's quite special to actually find them here now. It would be a terrible shame for people to come along and kind of smash away the rocks, but luckily they have protection.

"The scientific importance of what we've actually discovered here is going to continue running. We haven't seen the end of it there's so much more to learn and the fossils that were actually what we need to know are here."

– Dr Stig Walsh, National Museums Scotland

Scientists can now push on and discover the environment these tetrapods lived in.