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Study: Tails Might Have Helped Vertebrates Evolve from Sea to Land

When early terrestrial animals began moving about on mud and sand 360 million years ago, the powerful tails they used as fish may have been more important than scientists previously realized.

That’s one conclusion from a new study of African mudskipper fish and a robot modeled on the animal conducted by a multidisciplinary team of physicists, biologists, and roboticists from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Clemson University, Carnegie Mellon University and the UT-based National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS).

Animals analogous to the mudskipper would have used modified fins to move around on flat surfaces, but for climbing sandy slopes the animals could have benefited from using their tails to propel themselves forward, the researchers found.

Results of the study, reported in the journal Science, could help designers create amphibious robots able to move across granular surfaces more efficiently—and with less likelihood of getting stuck in the mud.

Continue reading at tntoday.utk.edu.