Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


The life histories of the earliest land animals

The fossil record usually shows what adult animals looked like. But the appearance and lifestyle of juvenile animals often differ dramatically from those of the adults.

A classic example is provided by frogs and salamanders. New discoveries from Uppsala, Cambridge and Duke Universities, published in Science, show that some of the earliest backboned land animals also underwent such changes of lifestyle as they grew up.

Professor Per Ahlberg at the Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology, Uppsala University, together with Jennifer Clack, Cambridge University, and Viviane Callier, Duke University, have studied fossil upper arm bones from the two so-called "four-legged fishes", Ichthtyostega and Acanthostega, from Greenland. These animals, which lived during the Devonian period about 365 million years ago, were among the earliest vertebrates (backboned animals) with fore- and hindlimbs rather than paired fins. They belong to the common stem group of all living amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds.

The researchers have identified several half-grown, as well as fully grown, upper arm bones from Ichthyostega and Acanthostega, allowing them to study how the shape of the bone changed during growth. It turns out that the two animals had different life histories.

"The upper arm bone provides a lot of information about the lifestyle of the animal, because its shape gives clues to the pattern of movement and can tell us for example whether the animal lifted the front part of its body clear of the ground," says Per Ahlberg.

Ichthyostega, which has robust limbs and only a small tail fin, appears to be the more terrestrial of the two. Its forelimb becomes better adapted to supporting weight as the animal grows up. The pattern of muscle attachments on the upper arm bone changes from a "fish-like" to a "land animal-like" configuration, and the shape of the shoulder joint changes so that it becomes possible for the animal to "lock" its forelimb into a weight-bearing position.

Acanthostega has feebler limbs and a large tail fin, and seems to have been more aquatic. In this animal, there are no corresponding changes.

"The explanation is probably that both animals laid their eggs in water just like modern amphibians, which meant that the terrestrial Ichthyostega, but not the aquatic Acanthostega, needed to undergo a lifestyle transformation as it grew from larva to adult," says Per Ahlberg.

Per Ahlberg | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>