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Mon Jan 14, 2013, 02:33 PM

Tetrapod anatomy: Backbone back-to-front in early animals

Textbooks might have to be re-written when it comes to some of the earliest creatures, a study suggests.

Researchers have found that our understanding of the anatomy of the first four-legged animals is wrong.

New 3D models of fossil remains show that previous renderings of the position of the beasts' backbones were actually back-to-front.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, may even change our thinking on how the spine evolved.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20987289

Vertebral architecture in the earliest stem tetrapods : http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature11825.html

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Reply Tetrapod anatomy: Backbone back-to-front in early animals (Original post)
dipsydoodle Jan 2013 OP
longship Jan 2013 #1
eppur_se_muova Jan 2013 #3
longship Jan 2013 #4
caseymoz Jan 2013 #5
DreamGypsy Jan 2013 #2

Response to dipsydoodle (Original post)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 02:50 PM

1. There is going to be a big hoopla about this...

...especially if the paper is saying early tetrapods have their spinal chord in front.

Because every single tetrapod alive today (AFAIK) has a spine in back. Maybe there were some tetrapods with spine in front, but none of their ancestors seem to be alive today.

Interesting.

R&K

Commenting w/o reading full paper. Will read paper later.

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Response to longship (Reply #1)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 05:02 PM

3. From the BBC article, it looks more like they had the spine flipped front-to-back ...

I was pretty skeptical at first. Apparently the specimens they examined are rarer than I had imagined, and so have never been fully extracted from the matrix for fear of causing irreversible damage. New X-ray imaging allows the fossils to be imaged without removing the encasing matrix.

The scientists found that parts of the spine thought to face the front of the animal, in fact faced the back - and vice versa.


OTOH, not the first time something like this happened. I know at least one famous dinosaur skeleton was diplayed with its neck and tail reversed, so the skull was on the end of the tail (long time ago, couldn't happen again ...).

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #3)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 05:10 PM

4. Thanks...

BTW, I believe the neck tail swap was on a sauropod, you know... Big, long necked plant eater, IIRC.

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #3)

Tue Jan 15, 2013, 11:15 AM

5. You'd think they could see where the ribs attach.


But I haven't seen any of these samples and don't know how they learn comparative anatomy. I'm guessing they can now judge lineage by spinal morphology.

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Response to dipsydoodle (Original post)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 02:53 PM

2. Cool. As always, Science moves ahead...

...new tools bring new insight, new ideas, and better knowledge.

From the article:

The researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) used the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) to bombard the 360-million-year old fossils with high energy X-rays.

This enabled them to create detailed computer reconstructions of the prehistoric animals.


As usual, I find a bit of journalistic hyperbole in the comment "Textbooks might have to be re-written". Future textbooks may note that for a long time the commonly accepted views reversed the direction of early tetrapod spine fossils, but later discoveries led to the current view, which has the following consequences ...., and led to the yet later discoveries of foo and bar and mumble.

Science doesn't need to rewrite it's past to cover up 'errors'. Science is a process whereby the misinterpretations caused by limited perceptions are discovered, corrected, and accepted. Rant off.

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