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A charming experiment uses a robot to recreate the style of walking the early inhabitant of the earth



OroBOT performs one of the good moves.
GIF: Camilo Mello (EPFL Lausanne), Tomislav Horvat (EPFL Lausanne) / Gizmodo

Using computer simulations and robots, researchers have recreated the probable gait of a 300 millionth anniversary animal, considered one of the earliest earth walkers on the planet

Soon hundreds of millions of years, aquatic animals started to land. But how did the first four-legged vertebrate animals go in the world? The question sounds simple enough, but then no one was around to observe the evolution of evolution, and fossil analyzes only hinted at the process.

We do not know, for example, if these early walkers, known as tetrapods, are able to stand on their feet or if their movements are coordinated, balanced and energy efficient. It would be good to know because the first walkers eventually turned into reptiles and mammals. Skilful and sophisticated walking styles ̵

1; unlike basic travel techniques such as rollover, sliding, sliding or skidding – have probably facilitated this important evolutionary transition.

In order to understand how these early pioneers were on the ground, a research team led by John Naturcast from Humboldt University in Berlin and Camilo Mello of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland turned to computer simulations and robots. Their compelling new document, published today in Nature, shows that early walkers have taken an advanced gait earlier than expected by scientists. Kinematic reconstruction of Orobates .

GIF: Jonas Lauströer (HAW Hamburg), Amir Andikfar (HAW Hamburg), John Nyakatura (HU Berlin) / Gizmodo

The prototype for their experiment is an early four-legged, 35-inch tetrapod known as . This ancient being, like a lizard, is a "stingy amniot", an early animal located amphibian and reptile in the evolutionary family tree. Orobates is an ideal candidate for understanding how earthal vertebrates have evolved because [represents] genealogy leads to modern amniotic – these are the animals that have become largely independent of the water as they have evolved into eggs, landed, "said Nycatura in a statement. In addition, the fossils of Orbbat are critical to understanding the evolution of vertebrate animals; these beings are a very close cousin of the last common ancestor of mammals, reptiles (including all missing dinosaurs and pterosaurs) and birds. And finally, left an excellent fossil record of its time on Earth, along with the petrified traces of steps – double breaking, allowing the researchers to perform a quantitative physical analysis of this vanished creature.

Indeed, the first step of the process was to create a digital skeleton model Orobates . offered an important beginning, but to understand how they moved their bodies through time and space and to get an idea of ​​their biomechanical capabilities, scientists looked at such living creatures, including Cayman (a small crocodile), salamanders, iguans and skins. Similar to Orobates these existing animals are four-legged, with arms and legs extending from the side rather than straight down (consider how the crocodile stands in a stretched position, unlike an elephant, limbs). Using X-rays and force measurements, scientists have documented how these animals stand their bodies upright, how their spinal bones move and the extent to which they can bend their elbows and knees as they walk. These data were then used to feed a kinematic computer simulation of the likely walking style Orobates .

Top view of OroBOT, performing a good gait rating (shown at 2x speed).
GIF: Tomislav Horvat (EPFL Lausanne), Camilo Mello (EPFL Lausanne) / Gizmodo

Not happy to stop here, scientists used a robot called OroBOT to confirm or reject the suggestions on the computer. With a robot working in the physical world, researchers were better able to calculate the physics involved. the actual transferred energy in the different walking styles proposed by the simulation. hypotheses about the dynamics of animal movement, "Melo says in a statement. "He influences the physics of the real world of his walking."

OroBOT has tested hundreds of different walking styles to identify the most commonly used and not used by Orobates . In another act of diligent care, the researchers correlated the styles of walking with the candidates against the fossil steps made by Orobates . If the gait did not match the fingerprints, it got a lower score. Researchers have even created an interactive website where the public and scientists can explore the possible treks used by Orobates

Potential gait with moderate body elevation and moderate bending of the spine. The most likely gait used by Orobates according to this study, is a style very similar to that used by the Hurricanes (HU Berlin), Jonas Lauströer (HAW Hamburg), Amir Andikfar (HAW Hamburg) / Gizmodo

caimans. This ancient animal moved with an athletic gait and could behave slightly upright on itself – something that salamanders and skinheads can not do. This turned out to be a more sophisticated style of walking than the assumed. "Our indicators show that Orobates shows a more advanced movement than was previously accepted for earlier tetrapods, suggesting that advanced earthly movement preceded diversification from [modern] amniotes, "

Excitingly, the researchers said their new multilateral methodology could be used to study other important evolutionary transitions, such as the origin of the flight or galloping mammals

" This is a remarkable study, what about "It's difficult to find guilty approaches," said Emily M. Standan, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa and an expert in early biomechanics of animals and comparative physiology. "By integrating anatomy with fossil fuels and paths with a wide range of familiar scattered animals and application of engineering and computer modeling tools to fit the data, the authors have taken a tremendous amount of information and have done it together to create a very realistic and difficult to refute description of how one ancient animal can be sole. "Stonen finds it interesting to learn that the upright stance seems to precede the emergence and diversification of modern amniots and their heirs.

"Because locomotive performance is often chosen in the adaptive evolutionary context, these data suggest that the advantages of standing up – speed, efficiency and agility – may have contributed to the diversification of [modern] amniotes," she said. , "It's exciting to think."

Standen was impressed by this find, but the methodology used by the researchers impressed her the most. She said work is what science should be: open, interdisciplinary, broadly focused and accessible. "It's a really incredible effort with incredible quality and precision," she said. "Not to mention that they have made these tools available online so that others can add information and adjust the results. It looks incredible and reminds of late-night TV commercials that would sell something amazing and then continue to add other "gifts" at no extra charge, she added: "The only thing missing on paper is a set of 12 pieces of knife. . "

[Nature]


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