First land vertebrates moved like seals

London, Jan 15: The world’s first 3D reconstruction of a 4-legged animal backbone reveals that the first animals on land moved like seals.

One of the studied animals was a fierce-looking, toothy beast known as Ichthyostega. It lived 374 – 359 million years ago and was a transitional species between fish and terrestrial animals.

Ichthyostega is thought to have navigated through shallow water in swamps, probably lured by food.

Now we know that it probably moved by dragging itself across flat ground, using its front legs to crutch itself forward, much like that of a mudskipper or seal, Discovery News reported.

“The results of this study force us to re-write the textbook on backbone evolution in the earliest limbed animals,” Lead author Stephanie Pierce, of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology, said.

Pierce and her colleagues bombarded 360-million-year-old early fossils for four-legged animals with high-energy synchrotron radiation.

The resulting high resolution X-ray images allowed the researchers to reconstruct the backbones of the extinct animals in exceptional detail.

The findings are published in the journal Nature. (ANI)