Labyrinthodonts are the most ancient amphibians known, as well as the first vertebrates to have walked on land, having evolved from their fish ancestors during the Devonian period. The teeth of these amphibians give the group its name, as in-folding patterns in the enamel (especially when see in cross-section) resemble a labyrinth, or maze (the word “Labyrinthodont” literally means “maze tooth”). Other characteristics that largely unite Labyrinthodonts are thick skull roofs, intricate vertebrae consisting of four unique segments, and a pair of small chasms at the back of the skull called otic notches. These short-legged creatures with massive heads were primarily water-based ambush predators in their earliest forms, though by the late Carboniferous period (approximately 305 million years ago), many of these Labyrinthodonts would suffer extinction as the result of a global collapse in rainforests. One group that would do exceptionally well during this extinction event would be the reptiles, of which had previously descended from Labyrinthodont ancestors. Perhaps the only places in the world where Labyrinthodonts were able to survive without much competition from reptiles were in the southern most parts of Gondwana, fulfilling the crocodile-niche of the region until their extinction in the early Cretaceous period. Though not entirely agreed upon, most experts concur that the lissamphibians, the only extant clade of amphibians alive today, are descended from Labyrinthodont ancestors.
Click on the images below to see the incredible fossils we offer in our Labyrinthodont selection: