Scientists Build Robot to Mimic Gait of 290-million-year-old Animal

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Little do we all know about the creatures that existed 300 million years ago. Paleontologists across the world have studied fossils and fossilized footprints of several prehistoric living organisms. However, not many have attempted to understand how those creatures walked.

Recently, scientist John Nyakatura at Humboldt University, Berlin, and his team have done just that. To that end they developed a robot that mimics the gait of Orabates pabsti. Renowned science journal “Nature” has published their findings in their latest issue.

Fossilized Footprints Formed Basis for Robot’s Gait

Nyakatura has spent years studying the 290-million-year-old fossil. Paleontologists dug out the fossil from a quarry in Central Germany’s Bromacker in 2000. An herbivore, Orabates pabsti, was a four-legged amphibian that lived before dinosaurs. As a result, its “position on the tree of life” fascinates scientists.

Researchers had also fossilized footprints of the 3-foot-long creature. Nyakatura partnered with Kamilo Melo from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Laussane. They built a replica of Orabates pabsti and tested the gait in different ways. Nyakatura and Melo struck down movements that did not match anatomical possibilities.

Scientists then developed a scaled-up version and named it OroBOT. They used 3-D printed plastic and steel to build the robot. It helped them study “real-world dynamics to account for gravity and friction”. Nyakatura compared these movements with those of other organisms like salamander and iguanas. Therefore, they concluded that Orabates pabsti “walked with a fairly upright posture, and didn’t drag its belly or tail.”

Paleonotlogists from across the world call this as an interesting finding. They point out that “upright stance” existed many years ago.

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