Scientists develop robot using a 290-million-years-old fossil

This helped them understand the locomotion of prehistoric land creatures.


Scientists have used a 290-million-year-old fossil skeleton and preserved ancient footprints to build a robot that can move as the prehistoric animals did. After years of study of the 290-million-year-old fossil, biologist John Nyakatura at Humboldt University in Berlin was able to create a robot that can resemble prehistoric life.

Scientists develop robot using a 290-million-years-old fossil

The four-legged creature was a plant-eater and lived before the big dinosaurs came into existence. The creature is believed to be a "stem amniote", an early land-dwelling animal that later evolved into mammals, reptiles, and birds.

Scientists say that the first generation on amphibious animals saw the light of day 350 million years ago, while the first species of amniotes emerged 310 million years ago.

The fossil which is referred to as Orabates pabsti is described as a "beautifully preserved and articulated skeleton," by Nyakatura. He worked closely with robotics expert Kamilo Melo who works at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. The duo developed a model that could move exactly how the creature moved. The results of their experiment can be found in the journal Nature.

The team of researchers then built a full-fledged replica of the creature, "we carefully modeled each and every bone," said Nyakatura. They also tested the motion in several ways to match the traits of the prehistoric beast.

The same procedure was repeated with a slightly-scaled up robotic replica, which was dubbed as OroBOT. The bot comprises motors which are 3D-printed plastic and steel parts. The model "helps us to test real-world dynamics, to account for gravity and friction," said Melo.

The scientists believe that the robot model helped them learn that the creature had more advanced locomotion than it was previously thought for such a prehistoric land animal. "It walked with a fairly upright posture," said Melo. "It didn't drag its belly or tail."

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