Closing the gap between fish and land animals
New exquisitely preserved fossils from Latvia cast light on a key event in our own evolutionary history, when our ancestors left the water and ventured onto land. Swedish researchers Per Ahlberg and Henning Blom from Uppsala University have reconstructed parts of the animal and explain the transformation in the new issue of Nature.
It has long been known that the first backboned land animals or "tetrapods" - the ancestors of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, including ourselves - evolved from a group of fishes about 370 million years ago during the Devonian period. However, even though scientists had discovered fossils of tetrapod-like fishes and fish-like tetrapods from this period, these were still rather different from each other and did not give a complete picture of the intermediate steps in the transition.
In 2006 the situation changed dramatically with the discovery of an almost perfectly intermediate fish-tetrapod, Tiktaalik, but even so a gap remained between this animal and the earliest true tetrapods (animals with limbs rather than paired fins). Now, new fossils of the extremely primitive tetrapod Ventastega from the Devonian of Latvia cast light on this key phase of the transition.
“Ventastega was first described from fragmentary material in 1994; since then, excavations have produced lots of new superbly preserved fossils, allowing us to reconstruct the whole head, shoulder girdle and part of the pelvis”, says Professor Per Ahlberg at the Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology, Uppsala University.
The recontructions made by Professor Ahlberg and Assistant Professor Henning Blom together with British and Latvian colleagues show that Ventastega was more fish-like than any of its contemporaries, such as Acanthostega. The shape of its skull, and the pattern of teeth in its jaws, are neatly intermediate between those of Tiktaalik and Acanthostega.
“However, the shoulder girdle and pelvis are almost identical to those of Acanthostega, and the shoulder girdle is quite different from that of Tiktaalik (the pelvis of Tiktaalik is unknown), suggesting that the transformation from paired fins to limbs had already occurred. It appears that different parts of the body evolved at different speeds during the transition from water to land”, says Per Ahlberg.
Per Ahlberg | alfa
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...