Ancient walking mystery deepens
Published: 23rd May 2012 19:48:19
One of the first creatures to step on land could not have walked on four legs, 3D computer models show.
Textbook pictures of the 360-million-year-old animal moving like a salamander are incorrect, say scientists.
Instead, it would have hauled itself from the water using its front limbs as crutches, research in Nature suggests.
The move from living in water to life on land - a pivotal moment in evolution - must have been a gradual one.
Ichthyostega is something of an icon in the fossil world. Living during the Upper Devonian period, it was dubbed a "fishapod", with its mixture of fish-like and amphibious features.
Our reconstruction demonstrates that the old idea, often seen in popular books and museum displays, of Ichthyostega looking and walking like a large salamander, with four sturdy legs, is incorrect”
Although it probably spent much of its time under water, at times it was thought to have crawled halfway up onto land on limb-like flippers.
Exactly how it moved on land has been a matter of much debate, however.
Now, a team from The Royal Veterinary College, London and the University of Cambridge, has spent three years reconstructing the first 3D computer model of Ichthyostega from fossils.
It enabled them to study how ancient vertebrates made the "monumental transition" from swimming to walking.
Study author Dr Stephanie Pierce, of The Royal Veterinary College, said the 3D skeleton allowed them to calculate the range of movement in the joints of its limbs for the first time.
The research suggests the animal shuffled on land using hind limb movements similar to that seen in seals rather than moving its limbs in the familiar walking pattern seen today.
Dr Pierce told BBC News: "We're almost bringing the animal back to life by doing this.
"What we've discovered is that some early tetrapods definitely did not have the ability to walk on land. We at this stage are not actually sure which animals - or group of animals - were the first to do this."
Co-author Prof Jenny Clack from the University of Cambridge added: "Our reconstruction demonstrates that the old idea, often seen in popular books and museum displays, of Ichthyostega looking and walking like a large salamander, with four sturdy legs, is incorrect."
Commenting on the study, Dr Susannah Maidment of London's Natural History Museum, said understanding where we came from, or where all the things that live on the land came from, is one of the most fundamental questions.
"What this study suggests is that this animal, which has been traditionally thought of as the first four legged animal to walk on land wasn't walking on land at all.
"It sends us almost back to the drawing board...I guess it even sends you back to the field to look for more fossils."
The research, reported in a paper in Nature, was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.
At 12:58:39 in EnglandA poem about the killing of PC Keith Blakelock during riots in north London was written by the man accused of his murder, a court has heard.
At 12:58:21 in SportKent have announced a pre-interest and pre-tax profit of £156,778 for the financial year to November 2013.
At 12:56:04 in ScotlandA hamster has been found abandoned inside a plastic play tube in Edinburgh.
At 12:55:09 in BusinessThe sometimes fraught relationship between leaseholders and their freeholders is going to be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
At 12:54:04 in HeadlinesIndia's Supreme Court has ordered the continuing detention of businessman Subrata Roy and asked his firm to come up with a plan to repay its investors.
At 12:53:21 in SportCrystal Palace winger Jason Puncheon has been fined £15,000 by the Football Association and warned about his future conduct for Twitter comments he made in relation to former boss Neil Warnock.
At 12:52:43 in HeadlinesA second witness at the murder trial of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has told a court in the capital Pretoria she was awoken by the sounds of a fight early on 14 February 2013.
At 12:42:01 in PoliticsThere is a risk that "deliberate provocation" could give rise to a dangerous incident in Ukraine, Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned.
At 12:41:48 in EnglandA residential treatment programme for addicts which closed in Yeovil is to reopen after the charity running it merged with another organisation.
At 12:40:03 in ScotlandPolice Scotland has exceeded its target to recruit 1,000 additional officers.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Ancient walking mystery deepens [Online] (Updated 23rd May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1430502/Ancient-walking-mystery-deepens [Accessed 9th Mar 2014]
News In Other Categories
There is a risk that "deliberate provocation" could give rise to a dangerous incident in Ukraine, Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned.
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
The sometimes fraught relationship between leaseholders and their freeholders is going to be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
Kent have announced a pre-interest and pre-tax profit of £156,778 for the financial year to November 2013.
A hamster has been found abandoned inside a plastic play tube in Edinburgh.
Two hospitals missed opportunities to take action against a consultant breast surgeon who was performing unnecessary or incomplete operations, a review has found.