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Thursday Morning Lecture with John A. Nyakatura (Matters of Activity), “Reverse-engineering the locomotion of a stem amniote – insights from a multidisciplinary approach”
“Reverse-engineering the locomotion of a stem amniote – insights from a multidisciplinary approach”
Reconstructing the locomotion of key vertebrate fossil specimens offers insights into their palaeobiology and helps to conceptualize major transitions in vertebrate evolution. A unique combination of an articulated nearly complete early land-living vertebrate fossil specimen and fossilized trackways was the starting point for an in-depth reconstruction of the locomotion based on the integration of image-based analyses with engineering techniques. The reconstruction involved experimental as well as computer-aided modelling approaches (‘virtual paleontology’). Starting from a large space of potential solutions, unlikely postures and gaits were step-wise excluded based on quantitative data. Research into the fossil’s anatomy, the fossil’s potential joint mobility and simulated potential movements within fossil tracks, a comparative analysis of modern animal locomotor biomechanics using x-ray motion analysis, and finally into a bio-inspired walking machine (OroBOT) will be summarized. The locomotor reconstruction demonstrates that Orobates exhibited more advanced locomotion than has been assumed for earlier species, which suggests that advanced terrestrial locomotion preceded the diversification of crown amniotes, a highly successful group of modern vertebrates. The talk exemplifies how contemporary paleobiological research can be focused on constraint-based exclusion of unlikely scenarios and deals with uncertainty.
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