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 dont have today. A study published in this weeks 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.
Steve Reilly | EurekAlert!
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