Sometime around 360 million years ago, our early ancestors made an important leap in evolution by transitioning from water to land. Although parts of this moment still remain a mystery to biologists, robots are now helping us understand how it might have happened.
Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Clemson University, and the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis have developed a robot to replicate the movement of the African mudskipper. This amphibious fish is one of the few living species believed to be anatomically similar to the first vertebrates that stepped “foot” on land.
Just like our first terrestrial vertebrates, the "MuddyBot" needs to climb up mudflats or sandy riverbanks, which for a finned creature is rather difficult to perform.
“Even this ridiculously seemingly simple little crutching motion with coordinated tail use confronts our ignorance in three or four different disciplines: biology, paleontology, robotics, and mathematics,” said Daniel Goldman, an associate professor in the Georgia Tech School of Physics, in a statement. “That’s a summary of how far away we are from really understanding it.”
Watch this majestic, yet fairly ungraceful, robotic recreation of evolutionary history below.
[H/T: Popular Science]