But why have some lizards gone bipedal? Have they evolved to trot on two feet, or is their upright posture simply a fluke of physics? Curious to find the answer, Clemente and his colleagues Philip Withers, Graham Thompson and David Lloyd decided to test how dragon lizards run on two legs.
But first Clemente had to catch his lizards. Fortunately Thompson was a lizard-tracking master. Driving all over the Australian outback, Clemente and Thompson eventually collected 16 dragon lizard species, ranging from frilled neck lizards to the incredibly rare C. rubens, found only on a remote Western Australian cattle station. Returning to the Perth lab, Clemente and Withers set the lizards running on a treadmill, filming the reptiles until they were all run-out.
Clemente admits that when he started, he thought that the lizards would fall into one of two groups; lizards that mostly ran on two legs, occasionally resorting to four, and lizards that never reared up. Not so. Even the lizards that he'd never seen on two legs in the wild managed an occasional few steps on their hind legs. In fact, the lizards' propensity for running on two legs seemed to be a continuum; C. rubens and P. minor spent only 5% of the time on their hind legs while L. gilberti spent 95% up on two.
Curious to know whether or not bipedalism has evolved, Clemente drew up the lizards' family tree and plotted on the percentage of time each species spent on their rear legs, but there was no correlation. The reptiles had not evolved to move on two feet. Something else was driving them off their front legs; but what?
According to Clemente, other teams had already suggested reasons for the lizards rearing up; maybe running on two legs was faster or more economical than running on all four. But when Clemente analysed the lizard running footage he realised that running on hind legs was more energetically costly, and the bipedal runners were no faster than the quadrupeds. Knowing that Peter Aerts had suggested that lizards improved their manoeuvrability by moving their centre of mass back towards the hips, Clemente wondered whether the lizards' front legs were leaving the ground because of the position of their centre of mass. Maybe they were 'pulling a wheelie'.
Teaming up with David Lloyd and modelling the running lizards' movements as the lizards accelerated, they realised that there was a strong correlation between the lizards' acceleration and their front legs pulling off the ground. Clemente explains that by moving their centre of mass, a turning force acts on the lizards' torso; lifting it off the ground making them run upright.
So running on two legs is a natural consequence of the lizards' acceleration. Clemente adds that 'some dragon lizards have exploited the consequence and chosen to go bipedal because it gives them some advantage, but we have no idea what that advantage is'.
Kathryn Phillips | EurekAlert!
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short
23.03.2017 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
24.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences