Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Study of jaw mechanics sheds new light on early tetrapod feeding habits

Date:
February 25, 2014
Source:
University of Lincoln
Summary:
A study of the jaws of one of the earliest known limbed vertebrates shows the species still fed underwater, not on land. Tetrapods -- the four-legged limbed vertebrates -- evolved from fish and include today's amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Acanthostega is regarded as one of the best known early tetrapods, and has played a key role in debates about tetrapod origins since spectacular new specimens were discovered in Greenland in 1987. Dating back to some 360 million years ago (end of the Devonian period); it has often been seen as a near-perfect fish-tetrapod intermediate.

Acanthostega fossil.
Credit: University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge

A study of the jaws of one of the earliest known limbed vertebrates shows the species still fed underwater, not on land.

Scientists from the University of Lincoln, UK, University of Zurich, Switzerland, University of Cambridge and University of Bristol, developed an innovative new method to infer the feeding mechanism of Acanthostega -- one of the earliest and most primitive tetrapods.

Tetrapods -- the four-legged limbed vertebrates -- evolved from fish and include today's amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

Acanthostega is regarded as one of the best known early tetrapods, and has played a key role in debates about tetrapod origins since spectacular new specimens were discovered in Greenland in 1987. Dating back to some 360 million years ago (end of the Devonian period); it has often been seen as a near-perfect fish-tetrapod intermediate.

The UK and Swiss researchers employed advanced statistical methods from a range of disciplines to explore the anatomical, functional and ecological changes associated with the emergence of tetrapods.

They examined the movement and structure of the lower jaws of Acanthostega and several other early tetrapods and tetrapod-like fish. Their observations suggest the Acanthostega jaw was more geared towards feeding under water, indicating that this tetrapod retained a primarily aquatic lifestyle.

Dr Marcello Ruta, from the University of Lincoln's School of Life Sciences, said: "The origin of tetrapod from fish is an iconic example of a major evolutionary transition. The fossils of Acanthostega continue to play an unsurpassed role in our understanding of the fish-tetrapod transition.

"Acanthostega retained many primitive and fish-like features while also displaying unquestionable tetrapod features such as fingers and toes. Its broad snout appears to be consistent with aquatic feeding habits (suction feeding), but its complex cranial joints appear to be similar to those of terrestrial vertebrates and would suggest direct biting on land environments as a means of prey capture. This paradox prompted our study."

The team examined patterns of jaw shape variation to assess whether the Acanthostega jaw is overall more similar to the jaws of fish or those of tetrapods. They then used advanced engineering methods to simulate biting action.

Dr Ruta said: "The lower jaw of Acanthostega can be shown to be anatomically and functionally similar to the jaws of some early fish and contemporary fish-tetrapod intermediates.

"Its upturned anterior extremity and rearward-facing anterior fangs appear to be adaptations for a snapping action. All these observations imply that this type of jaw was capable of fast closure for efficient capture of fast prey, in support of a predominantly if not exclusively aquatic feeding action."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Lincoln. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Neenan JM, Ruta M, Clack JA, Rayfield EJ. Feeding biomechanics in Acanthostega and across the fish–tetrapod transition. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2014 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2689

Cite This Page:

University of Lincoln. "Study of jaw mechanics sheds new light on early tetrapod feeding habits." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140225193235.htm>.
University of Lincoln. (2014, February 25). Study of jaw mechanics sheds new light on early tetrapod feeding habits. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140225193235.htm
University of Lincoln. "Study of jaw mechanics sheds new light on early tetrapod feeding habits." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140225193235.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins