Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Early mammals used pelvic bones to trot, study finds

17.01.2003


Scientists studying the earliest mammals have been stumped for centuries about the function of two pelvic bones found in the fossil record that most mammals don’t have today. A study published in this week’s issue of the journal Science suggests those bones were involved in locomotion and helped the animals become more mobile, a find that could help researchers pinpoint a key moment in the evolution of mammals.



Biologists at Ohio University and Buffalo State College studied modern-day relations to the earliest mammals — opossums, one of the few types of animals alive today that still has the bones in question, called epipubic bones.

In opossums and a few other marsupials, the epipubic bones are attached to the pelvis and jut into muscles of the stomach. "Kind of like you had two pencils in your belly wall coming from your pelvis up to either side of your navel and they can move up and down," explained Steve Reilly, associate professor of biological sciences at Ohio University and lead author of the study.


Epipubic bones have been found in the earliest mammal fossils and remain in some of the marsupials still living today, and scientists had long thought they supported the animals’ trademark pouch. If that were the case, the bones and attached muscles would move together on one side of the body when the animals walk. But when researchers placed opossums on a treadmill and observed their bones and muscles in motion with a videoflouroscope, they found that the bones move asymmetrically.

"Instead of moving together, one bone is going up and the other is going down," Reilly said. "The epipubic bones act like fishing poles within the belly wall to pull one at a time diagonally across the body, stiffening the body during each trotting step." And, he added, the support from the bones that stiffens the body allowed the animals -- and most likely their ancient ancestors -- to trot.

"These opossums are marsupials that look almost exactly like the fossils we have of mammals that lived millions of years ago," said Reilly, who has studied the evolution of animal locomotion for seven years. "We believe the earliest mammals probably moved just like the opossums because they’re very similar anatomically."

Reilly and his collaborator Thomas White suspect that the development of epipubic bones made the prehistoric creatures more mobile. The increased locomotion made them better predators, helped them to escape predators and allowed them to forage more widely. "Locomotion contributed heavily to the evolution of mammals," Reilly said, "and these bones had something to do with increasing locomotor efficiency in the very earliest mammals."

As the mammals radiated after the dinosaurs went extinct, the epipubic bones in most mammals, including humans, became fused with the pelvis, which allowed mammals to use many gaits besides the trot.

The findings could have implications for paleontologists, Reilly said.

"If the function of the epipubic bone relates to locomotion, that makes the bones more important as a fossil indicator of increased locomotor efficiency," he said. If scientists study the fossil record and figure out when these bones first appeared, he added, it would shed light on a crucial step in the evolution of mammals.

The research is part of a larger study by Reilly and Ohio University colleague Audrone Biknevicius focusing on the evolution of locomotion, which is funded by a three-year, $295,000 National Science Foundation grant.


Written by Kelli Whitlock.

Steve Reilly | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ohio.edu/researchnews/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A room with a view - or how cultural differences matter in room size perception
25.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für biologische Kybernetik

nachricht Studying a catalyst for blood cancers
25.04.2017 | University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Early organic carbon got deep burial in mantle

25.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

A room with a view - or how cultural differences matter in room size perception

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Warm winds: New insight into what weakens Antarctic ice shelves

25.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>