By Tim Binnall
A team of researchers in Europe used modern technology to take a proverbial glimpse into the ancient past by creating a robot which recreates the walking motion of a prehistoric creature. The remarkable experiment reportedly centered around a lizard-like animal known as the Orobates pabsti, which existed on Earth around 300 million years ago. How, exactly, the five-foot-long creature walked on land has been the subject of considerable speculation, but this new experiment seems to have unlocked the secret.
Using fossilized footprints laid down by the creature in ancient times as well as a 3D digital model of the Orobates pabsti, researchers ran hundreds of different simulations of the animal in motion. Once they'd narrowed down the possibilities, the team then created a robot of the ancient beast in order to test these gaits in a three-dimensional environment which could account for factors like gravity and friction. This allowed them to refine their approach as some of the suspected walking styles turned out to be impossible for the creature to pull off outside of the digital realm.
The researchers ultimately determined that the Orobates pabsti likely walked in a manner similar to a reptile species known as a caiman. The project is believed to be the first time that scientists have deciphered the ambulatory motions of an ancient creature in such a high tech fashion.