In focus: Investigating the Biomechanics of the Tadpole from Hell

by Eva Herbst, Structure & Motion Lab, The Royal Veterinary College, UK. If you would like to contribute a guest post, please get in touch, such as on Twitter or Facebook. Fig. 1 Reconstruction of Crassigyrinus scoticus (Panchen & Smithson 1990) My name is Eva Herbst and I started my PhD with John Hutchinson and co-supervisor…

In focus: The mysterious extra ‘digits’ of pandas, moles and elephants

The biological ‘five finger rule’ is strikingly consistent throughout living tetrapod vertebrates. Humans and other primates, most carnivorous mammals, crocodiles, lizards and tortoises all typically possess the five digits (fingers and toes) characteristic of tetrapod limbs. It wasn’t always so – the ancient ancestors of the first vertebrates to walk on land, such as Ichthyostega and Acanthostega, had up to…

#FossilFriday: A four-legged snake from Brazil points to the origins of modern snakes

It sounds like a contradiction, but palaeontologists from the UK and Germany have discovered a snake with legs! This stunning fossil, found in Brazil, dates from the time of the dinosaurs in the early Cretaceous period, which began more than 145 million years ago. The new species, Tetrapodophis [meaning four-legged] amplectus, has the characteristic anatomical features of a snake,…

In Focus: Can golden moles hear the earth move with a Thor-like ‘hammer’?

The golden moles (Chrysochloridae) are a group of silky and rather endearing group of mammals resembling, but distinct from, the true moles (talpids). Indeed, they are more closely related to elephants and manatees than to moles, shrews, rodents or other seemingly similar animals. They share many features with moles, such as adaptations to burrowing, and inhabit…

Water molecule tracking reveals intricate muscle patterns in a tiny heart

The fibres of a mouse heart resemble a neat bird’s nest structure, but their specific orientations and interactions come together to drive blood around the body. The individual muscle strands were visualised using diffusion tensor imaging, which essentially tracks the movement of water molecules through single cells, revealing their position, size and shape. The pattern of…

In Focus: Innovations in bats’ skin helped flying mammals take off

This week’s post was written with the help of Dr Jorn Cheney, post-doctoral fellow at the Royal Veterinary College. If you would like to contribute a guest post, please get in touch on Twitter or Facebook. Powered flight has evolved four times in the animal kingdom: once each in insects, birds, pterosaurs and bats. Biomechanists have spent decades…