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Salamander ancestors could regenerate limbs

Ancient amphibian fossils show sign of appendage replacement mechanism

12:00pm, October 26, 2015
axolotl salamander

GROWTH STRATEGY  Salamanders like this axolotl are among the few four-legged animals that can regenerate body parts.

Losing a limb or a tail isn’t too worrisome for salamanders. They can regenerate lost appendages. And so could a number of their ancient relatives, a new study finds.

Amphibian fossils from 290 million years ago show signs of the animals regrowing limbs, researchers report online October 26 in Nature. The findings suggest that some salamander ancestors had the ability to regenerate body parts nearly 80 million years before the first salamander existed.

The results “show that salamander-like regeneration is not something that is salamander specific, but was instead widespread in the evolutionary past,” says study coauthor Nadia Fröbisch, a paleontologist at the Museum of Natural History in Berlin.

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