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Forelimb muscle and joint actions in Archosauria: insights from Crocodylus johnstoni (Pseudosuchia) and Mussaurus patagonicus (Sauropodomorpha)

Otero, A; Allen, V; Pol, D; Hutchinson, J R


A Otero

V Allen

D Pol

J R Hutchinson


Many of the major locomotor transitions during the evolution of Archosauria, the lineage including crocodiles and birds as well as extinct Dinosauria, were shifts from quadrupedalism to bipedalism (and vice versa). Those occurred within a continuum between more sprawling and erect modes of locomotion and involved drastic changes of limb anatomy and function in several lineages, including sauropodomorph dinosaurs. We present biomechanical computer models of two locomotor extremes within Archosauria in an analysis of joint ranges of motion and the moment arms of the major forelimb muscles in order to quantify biomechanical differences between more sprawling, pseudosuchian (represented the crocodile Crocodylus johnstoni) and more erect, dinosaurian (represented by the sauropodomorph Mussaurus patagonicus) modes of forelimb function. We compare these two locomotor extremes in terms of the reconstructed musculoskeletal anatomy, ranges of motion of the forelimb joints and the moment arm patterns of muscles across those ranges of joint motion. We reconstructed the three-dimensional paths of 30 muscles acting around the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints. We explicitly evaluate how forelimb joint mobility and muscle actions may have changed with postural and anatomical alterations from basal archosaurs to early sauropodomorphs. We thus evaluate in which ways forelimb posture was correlated with muscle leverage, and how such differences fit into a broader evolutionary context (i.e. transition from sprawling quadrupedalism to erect bipedalism and then shifting to graviportal quadrupedalism). Our analysis reveals major differences of muscle actions between the more sprawling and erect models at the shoulder joint. These differences are related not only to the articular surfaces but also to the orientation of the scapula, in which extension/flexion movements in Crocodylus (e.g. protraction of the humerus) correspond to elevation/depression in Mussaurus. Muscle action is highly influenced by limb posture, more so than morphology. Habitual quadrupedalism in Mussaurus is not supported by our analysis of joint range of motion, which indicates that glenohumeral protraction was severely restricted. Additionally, some active pronation of the manus may have been possible in Mussaurus, allowing semi-pronation by a rearranging of the whole antebrachium (not the radius against the ulna, as previously thought) via long-axis rotation at the elbow joint. However, the muscles acting around this joint to actively pronate it may have been too weak to drive or maintain such orientations as opposed to a neutral position in between pronation and supination. Regardless, the origin of quadrupedalism in Sauropoda is not only linked to manus pronation but also to multiple shifts of forelimb morphology, allowing greater flexion movements of the glenohumeral joint and a more columnar forelimb posture.


Otero, A., Allen, V., Pol, D., & Hutchinson, J. R. (2017). Forelimb muscle and joint actions in Archosauria: insights from Crocodylus johnstoni (Pseudosuchia) and Mussaurus patagonicus (Sauropodomorpha).

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 10, 2017
Publication Date Nov 24, 2017
Deposit Date Dec 15, 2017
Publicly Available Date Dec 15, 2017
Journal Peer J
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages e3976
Public URL


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