In focus: How much do turtles wiggle their hips?

by Christopher Mayerl, Evolutionary Morphology and Biomechanics Laboratory at Clemson University (S. Carolina, USA). If you would like to contribute a guest post, please get in touch, such as on Twitter or Facebook. When you see a turtle, you automatically know it’s a turtle and not something else, probably because of its distinctive shell. However, there’s…

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,…

Rock-climbing cavefish ‘walks’ like a salamander

One of our interests at the RVC is examining the early history of tetrapods (four-legged vertebrates) and how their ancestors made the transition from water to land. Some studies have examined species of living fishes that can move on land, such as mudskippers and lungfish, but although they are able to make do using their…