Scientists Have Brought The Movement Of A 290-Million-Year-Old Creature Back With The Help Of A Robot

Nadezda MurmakovaShutterstock

An ancient and 290-million-year-old plant eating creature called Orabates pabsti, which roamed the Earth long before dinosaurs, has had its movement brought back with the help of a robot, which has allowed scientists to understand how this prehistoric creature would have once walked.

As Fox News reports, robotics expert Kamilo Melo at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and evolutionary biologist John Nyakatura at Humboldt University in Berlin recently teamed up to create a robot version of Orabates pabsti called OroBOT, which was constructed to be a perfect replica of the original animal. According to Nyakatura, “We carefully modeled each and every bone.”

Besides studying the fossil of this animal in great detail, Nyakatura and Melo also spent a good deal of time examining the creature’s footprints so that the robot would move with exactly the same gait as the footprints of the original Orabates pabsti shown in the fossil record.

The three-foot robot OroBOT was built using a variety of different motors that the scientists hooked up to steel body parts and 3D printed plastic. When scientists analyzed how salamanders and iguanas moved and compared these animals with the 290-million-year-old Orabates pabsti, it was determined that this prehistoric animal moved much more rapidly than was initially thought. Furthermore, when it walked, scientists believe that it kept both its belly and tail up off the ground and, according to Melo, “walked in a fairly upright” position.

Thomas R. Holtz, a paleontologist with the University of Maryland, noted that determining how this prehistoric creature once moved is extremely important as “an upright stance goes further back than we originally thought.”

One of the reasons why scientists are are so curious to learn about this animal’s movement is that it belongs to the a group of animals called amniotes, which sprang into existence approximately 350 million years ago, and consisted of both mammals and reptiles.

Amniotes were quite different from amphibians as they could live out the entirety of their lives on land, and membranes found inside their embyros made it so that young amniotes never had to live in water. According to Science News, Nyakatura noted that the amniotic membrane “is regarded as a key evolutionary innovation, to be able to colonize different habitats.”

Scientists first wrote about Orabates pabsti in 2004 after finding many of its fossils in Germany, and as Stuart Sumida, a vertebrate paleontologist at California State University, San Bernardino, has stated of this discovery, “The preservation is phenomenal. These are things preserved from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tails. They are so well preserved that we can generate hypotheses about how they moved.”

The new study on the creation of the OroBOT robot, which perfectly mimics the movement of the 290-million-year-old Orabates pabsti, has been published in Nature.