Smith Woodward has observed that the decline of many groups of fishes is heralded by the tendency to assume elongate and finally eel-shaped forms, as seen independently, for example, among the declining Acanthodians or palaeozoic sharks, among the modern crossopterygian Polypterus and Calamoichthys of the Nile, in the modern dipneustan Lepidosiren and Protopterus, in the Triassic chondrostean Belonorhynchus, as well as in the bow-fin (A7nia) and the garpike (Lepidosteus).
The outcome of our present knowledge points to the Stegocephalia, probably themselves derived from the Crossopterygian fishes (8), having yielded on the one hand the true batrachians (retrogressive series), with which they are to a certain extent connected through the Caudata and the Apoda, on the other hand the reptiles (progressive series), through the Rhynchocephalians and the Anomodonts, the latter being believed, on very suggestive evidence, to lead to the mammals (9).
- Tailed, lacertiform or serpentiform batrachians, with the temporal region of the skull roofed over by postorbital, squamosal, and supratemporal plates similar to the same bones in Crossopterygian fishes, and likewise with paired dermal bones (occipitals and post-temporals) behind the parietals and supratemporals.
6.) As stated above in the definition of the order, the Stegocephalia have retained most of the cranial bones which are to be found in the Crossopterygian fishes, and it is worthy of note that the bones termed post-temporals may give attachment to a further bone so prolonged backwards as to suggest the probability of the skull being connected with the shoulder-girdle, as in most teleostome fishes.
Although not strictly forming part of the skull, allusion should be made here to the ring of sclerotic plates which has been found in many of the Stegocephalia, and which is only found elsewhere in a few Crossopterygian fishes as well as in many reptiles and birds.
He has shown that, as in the Crossopterygian and Chondrostean ganoid fishes, there co., are two clavicular elements on each side; the lower corresponds to the clavicle of reptiles and higher vertebrates, whilst the upper corresponds to the clavicle of teleostean fishes, and has been named by him "cleithrum."
The extinct Stegocephalia, on the other hand, were mostly protected, on the ventral surface at least, by an armour of overlapping round, oval, or rhomboidal scales, often very similar to those of Crossopterygian or ganoid fishes, and likewise disposed in transverse oblique lines converging forwards on the middle line of the belly.
But in the Labyrinthodonta, grooves are more or less marked along the teeth and give rise to folds of the wall which, extending inwards and ramifying, produce the complicated structure, exhibited by transverse sections, whence these batrachians derive their name; a somewhat similar complexity of structure is known in some holoptychian (dendrodont) Crossopterygian fishes.