Presented by: John A. Nyakatura, Ph.D.
Comparative Zoology, Institute for Biology
Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany
Reconstructing the locomotion of key vertebrate fossil specimens offers insights into their palaeobiology and helps to conceptualize major transitions in vertebrate evolution. Estimating the locomotor behaviour of a fossil species, however, remains a challenge because of the limited information preserved and the lack of a direct correspondence between form and function. Orobates pabsti from the Bromacker quarry in Thuringa, central Germany, is a representative of the diadectids, i.e., the likely fossil sister taxon to modern amniotes. Also, hundreds of tetrapod tracks have been recovered from the same site and some of these were assigned to Orobates as the trackmaker. This unique combination of an articulated nearly complete early tetrapod specimen and fossilized evidence of the same species’ locomotor behavior was the starting point for an in-depth reconstruction of the locomotion. The reconstruction involved experimental as well as computer-aided modelling approaches (‘virtual paleontology’). Starting from a large space of potential solutions, unlikely postures and gaits were step-wise excluded based on quantitative data. Research into the fossil’s anatomy, the fossil’s potential joint mobility and simulated potential movements within fossil tracks, a comparative analysis of extant tetrapod locomotor biomechanics using x-ray motion analysis, and finally into a bio-inspired walking machine (OroBOT) will be summarized. The locomotor reconstruction demonstrates that Orobates exhibited more advanced locomotion than has been assumed for earlier tetrapods, which suggests that advanced terrestrial locomotion preceded the diversification of crown amniotes.
WHEN: Thursday, Dec. 17, at 10 a.m.
For Zoom link or other information, please call 330.325.6293.
-Submitted by Tricia Fincham