tet·​ra·​pod | \ ˈte-trə-ˌpäd How to pronounce tetrapod (audio) \

Definition of tetrapod

: a vertebrate (such as an amphibian, a bird, or a mammal) with two pairs of limbs

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

The earliest tetrapods, or "four-footed" animals, were mammal-like reptiles that evolved before the rise of the dinosaurs and ranged from mouse-sized to cow-sized. Today the tetrapods include the reptiles, the amphibians, the birds, and the mammals—including humans. Though the fish aren't classified as tetrapods, it's quite possible that our own limbs began as paired fins hundreds of millions of years ago.

Examples of tetrapod in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Previous research had shown that HoxD13 is active in the developing tetrapod limb when the wrists and digits form. John A. Long, Scientific American, "How a 380-Million-Year-Old Fish Gave Us Fingers," 20 May 2020 This gave rise to the tetrapods, or four-limbed vertebrates, that included dinosaurs, land animals and eventually humans. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Fish finger fossils show the beginnings of hands," 18 Mar. 2020 This tetrapod, dubbed Parmastega aelidae, looked similar to a crocodile, except its protruding eyes were on top of its head. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Newly discovered strange 'grinning' crocodile-like creature lived 372 million years ago," 23 Oct. 2019 When this tetrapod was alive, neither threat existed yet. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Newly discovered strange 'grinning' crocodile-like creature lived 372 million years ago," 23 Oct. 2019 Here’s an unorthodox solution to slippery soap: Shape it like a tetrapod. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "Tetra Soap brings Brutalism to personal hygiene," 22 May 2018 Dasen and his colleagues also looked at a genetic transcription factor called Foxp1, located at the spinal cord in tetrapods. Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian, "What a Walking Fish Can Teach Us About Human Evolution," 9 Feb. 2018 Scientists had diagrammed the somewhat smooth distributions of other tetrapods—vertebrates descended from the earliest four-limbed creatures. Mark Fischetti, Scientific American, "Reptiles Are Concentrated in Specific Locations, Often Unprotected," 1 Apr. 2018 Image In land vertebrates, or tetrapods, walking is partly characterized by this left-right alternation as well as rhythms of extending and flexing. Steph Yin, New York Times, "These Skates Are Made for Walking," 8 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tetrapod.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of tetrapod

circa 1891, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tetrapod

New Latin tetrapodus, from Greek tetrapod-, tetrapous four-footed, from tetra- + pod-, pous foot — more at foot

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about tetrapod

Time Traveler for tetrapod

Time Traveler

The first known use of tetrapod was circa 1891

See more words from the same year

Statistics for tetrapod

Cite this Entry

“Tetrapod.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tetrapod. Accessed 26 Oct. 2020.

Comments on tetrapod

What made you want to look up tetrapod? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Namesakes Word Quiz

  • a citrus fruit possibly named after a person
  • Which of the following is a fruit named after a Moroccan seaport?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!