- Not Exactly Rocket Science
Virtual resurrection shows that early four-legged animal couldn’t walk very well
In a small office north of London, Stephanie Pierce from the Royal Veterinary College is watching a movement that hasn’t been seen for 360 million years. On her computer, she has resurrected the long-extinct Ichthyostega – one of the earliest four-legged animals to creep about on land. By recreating this iconic beast as a virtual skeleton, Pierce has shown that while it looked like a giant salamander, it couldn’t possibly have walked like one. It had some of the planet’s earliest bony legs, but they weren’t very good at taking steps.
Since its discovery over 50 years ago, Ichthyostega has been an icon of this pivotal transition. Some 300 specimens have been found but many are incomplete, flattened or