PerspectivePaleontology

Learning to move on land

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Science  08 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6295, pp. 120-121
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag1092

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Summary

How did early four-limbed vertebrates, or stem tetrapods, move on land? On page 154 of this issue, McInroe and co-workers bring together expertise from several fields—including biomechanical analysis of a modern analog, mathematical modeling, controlled drag measurements in granular media, and bioinspired robotics—to address this question (1). They find that properly coordinated tail movements make locomotion efficient when limb motion is suboptimal and substrates are challenging. Thus, the tail may have helped stem tetrapods to move on land. The work exemplifies a move in paleontology toward increasingly interdisciplinary research (2).

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