Interactive Sessions - Kids' Tech University (KTU) at SWVAC    
Dr. Michelle Stocker April 11, 2015
Where did all the legs go? Limblessness, not just for snakes

An interactive session led by Dr. Michelle Stocker

Research Scientist in the Paleobiology and Geobiology Research Group at Virginia Tech.

Legs are a feature that all land animals share, but not snakes! At least not the ones alive today. But did you know that there are other animals besides snakes that no longer have legs? In this presentation, I will be talking about the many kinds of amazing amphibians and reptiles that are limbless. In many cases, these animals burrow under ground, using only their heads to dig! What do they look like - on the outside? - on the inside? Where do they live? Are they all closely related?

The limbless animals alive today are not the only examples of this type of body plan. We will also talk about some of the fossils that share this body plan and what they can mean for when and how these body plans evolved. Evolutionary biologists use the living animals to infer how these extinct animals moved, what kind of climate they might have lived in, and how limblessness is an example of a phenomenon called ‘convergent evolution.’ We will look at the skeletons of living animals and fossils and talk about how we can learn about the evolution of limblessness from their relationships, their development, and the construction of their skeletons.

Dr. Stocker did her Bachelor of Science degree in Geological Sciences at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, her Masters of Science degree in Geosciences at the University of Iowa, and my PhD at The University of Texas at Austin. Her current title is Research Scientist, and she’s part of the Paleobiology and Geobiology Research Group at Virginia Tech.

April 2015 - Hands-On Exhibits
After the interactive session the students will be escorted by their parents to have lunch and then to the hands-on portion of the event. There the students will enjoy the experience of interacting with various exhibits.