Crocodylians occupy a key phylogenetic position for investigations of archosaur locomotor evolution. Compared to the well-studied hindlimb, relatively little is known about the skeletal movements and mechanics of the forelimb. In this study, we employed manual markerless XROMM (X-ray Reconstruction Of Moving Morphology) to measure detailed 3-D kinematics of the shoulder girdle and forelimb bones of American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) walking on a treadmill. Digital models of the interclavicle, scapulocoracoid, humerus, radius and ulna were created using a 3-D laser scanner. Models were articulated and aligned to simultaneously recorded frames of fluoroscopic and standard light video to reconstruct and measure joint motion. Joint coordinate systems were established for the coracosternal, glenohumeral and elbow joints. Our analysis revealed that the limb joints only account for about half of fore/aft limb excursion; the remaining excursion results from shoulder girdle movements and lateral bending of the vertebral column. Considerable motion of each scapulocoracoid relative to the vertebral column is consistent with coracosternal mobility. The hemisellar design of the glenohumeral joint permits some additional translation, or sliding in the fore-aft plane, but this movement does not have much of an effect on the distal excursion of the bone.
Keywords: alligator; coracoids; kinematics; shoulder; treadmill.
© 2013 Anatomical Society.