Navigation Links
Scientists reassemble the backbone of life with a particle acceleratorynchrotron X-rays
Date:1/13/2013

This press release is available in French and German.

Jointly issued with STFC and the Royal Veterinary College London.

Scientists have been able to reconstruct, for the first time, the intricate three-dimensional structure of the backbone of early tetrapods, the earliest four-legged animals. High-energy X-rays and a new data extraction protocol allowed the researchers to reconstruct the backbones of the 360 million year old fossils in exceptional detail and shed new light on how the first vertebrates moved from water onto land. The results are published 13 January 2013 in Nature.

The international team of scientists was led by Stephanie E. Pierce from The Royal Veterinary College in London and Jennifer A. Clack from the University of Cambridge. It also comprised scientists from Uppsala University (Sweden) and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility ESRF in Grenoble (France).

The tetrapods are four-limbed vertebrates, which are today represented by amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Around 400 million years ago, early tetrapods were the first vertebrates to make short excursions into shallower waters where they used their four limbs for moving around. How this happened and how they then transferred to land is a subject of intense debate among palaeontologists and evolution biologists.

All tetrapods have a backbone, or vertebral column, which is a bony structure common to all other vertebrates including fish, from which tetrapods evolved. A backbone is formed from vertebrae connected in a row - from head to tail. Unlike the backbone of living tetrapods (e.g. humans), in which each vertebra is composed of only one bone, early tetrapods had vertebrae made up of multiple parts.

"For more than 100 years, early tetrapods were thought to have vertebrae composed of three sets of bones - one bone in front, one on top, and a pair behind. But, by peering inside the fossils using synchrotron X-rays we have discovered that this traditional view literally got it back-to-front," says Stephanie Pierce who is the lead author of the publication.

For the analysis, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in France, where the three fossil fragments were scanned with X-rays, applied a data extraction method to reveal tiny details of fossil bones buried deep inside the rock matrix. The fossilised bones are embedded in rock so dense it absorbs most of the X-rays. "Without the new method, it would not have been possible to reveal the elements of the spine in three dimensions with a resolution of 30 micrometres" says Sophie Sanchez from University of Uppsala and ESRF who is a co-author of the publication.

In these high-resolution X-ray images, the scientists discovered that what was thought to be the first bone - known as the intercentrum - is actually the last in the series. And, although this might seem like a trivial oversight, this re-arrangement in vertebral structure has over-arching ramifications for the functional evolution of the tetrapod backbone.

Stephanie Pierce explains: "By understanding how each of the bones fit together we can begin to explore the mobility of the spine and test how it may have transferred forces between the limbs during the early stages of land movement".

But, the findings didn't end there. One of the animals - known as Ichthyostega - was also found to have an assortment of hitherto unknown skeletal features including a string of bones extending down the middle of its chest.

Jennifer Clack says: "These chest bones turned out to be the earliest evolutionary attempt to produce a bony sternum. Such a structure would have strengthened the ribcage of Ichthyostega, permitting it to support its body weight on its chest while moving about on land."

This unexpected discovery supports recent work by Pierce and Clack that showed Ichthyostega probably moved by dragging itself across flat ground using synchronous 'crutching' motions of its front legs - much like that of a mudskipper or seal. Dr Pierce adds: "The results of this study force us to re-write the textbook on backbone evolution in the earliest limbed animals."

"At the ESRF, the new data extraction protocol makes it possible to study fossils in dense and heavy rock in unprecedented detail. What we have seen today is only the beginning of more surprises to come," concludes Sophie Sanchez.


'/>"/>

Contact: Claus Habfast
claus.habfast@esrf.fr
33-666-662-384
European Synchrotron Radiation Facility
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Stanford scientists develop gene therapy approach to grow blood vessels in ischemic limbs
2. Queens scientists seek vaccine for Pseudomonas infection
3. Scientists produce eye structures from human blood-derived stem cells
4. American Society of Plant Biologists honors early career women scientists
5. Brandeis scientists win prestigious prize for circadian rhythms research
6. Scientists discover new method of proton transfer
7. Salk scientists open new window into how cancers override cellular growth controls
8. WileyChina.com - Now Featuring Bespoke Pages for China’s Life Scientists
9. Scientists win $2 million to study new pathway in development and maintenance of lymphoma
10. UGA scientists reveal genetic mutation depicted in van Goghs sunflower paintings
11. Genetic mutation depicted in van Goghs sunflower paintings revealed by scientists
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Scientists reassemble the backbone of life with a particle acceleratorynchrotron X-rays
(Date:5/20/2016)... -- VoiceIt is excited to announce its new marketing ... working together, VoiceIt and VoicePass will offer an ... slightly different approaches to voice biometrics, collaboration between ... Both companies ... "This marketing and technology partnership allows VoiceIt ...
(Date:5/9/2016)... , UAE, May 9, 2016 ... when it comes to expanding freedom for high net ... Even in today,s globally connected world, there is ... conferencing system could ever duplicate sealing your deal with ... obtaining second passports by taking advantage of citizenship via ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... , April 28, 2016 First quarter ... (139.9), up 966% compared with the first quarter of 2015 ... totaled SEK 589.1 M (loss: 18.8) and the operating margin was ... (loss: 0.32) Cash flow from operations was SEK 249.9 ... 2016 revenue guidance is unchanged, SEK 7,000-8,500 M. The ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... Parallel 6 , the leading ... the Clinical Reach Virtual Patient Encounter CONSULT module which enables both audio ... and clinical trial team. , Using the CONSULT module, patients and physicians can schedule ...
(Date:6/24/2016)...  Regular discussions on a range of subjects including policies, ... entities said Poloz. Speaking at a lecture to ... he pointed to the country,s inflation target, which is set ... "In certain areas there needs ... economic goals, why not sit down and address strategy together?" ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... UAS ... the launch of their brand, UP4™ Probiotics, into Target stores nationwide. The company, ... proud to add Target to its list of well-respected retailers. This list includes ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Charm Sciences, Inc. is pleased ... received AOAC Research Institute approval 061601. , “This is another AOAC-RI approval of ... Salter, Vice President of Regulatory and Industrial Affairs. “The Peel Plate methods perform ...
Breaking Biology Technology: