Researchers Look to Echidnas to Shed Light on Forelimb Evolution in Mammals

November 14, 2018
Echidna by Mark Gillow Flickr

Mammals use their forelimbs for many activities including swimming, jumping, flying, climbing and digging. But how they evolved to do so is a mystery for scientists. Postdoc, Sophie Regnault (S. Pierce Lab) and Prof. Stephanie Pierce studied a highly-detailed musculoskeletal model of an echidna forelimb to shed light on how extinct mammals might have used their forelimbs. Echidnas are egg-laying mammals with many anatomical features in common with earlier mammal ancestors and can help bridge the gap between extinct and other modern-day mammals. 

In their study published in Royal Society Open Science, Regnault and Pierce describe their virtual model, made using CT scans, and how the model can not only bring insight into the little-studied echidna, but can also guide reconstructions of extinct mammals. Media: The Harvard Gazette


Image: Echnida by Mark Gillow on Flickr