ROM mapping of ligamentous constraints on avian hip mobility: implications for extinct ornithodirans

Proc Biol Sci. 2018 May 30;285(1879):20180727. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2018.0727.


Studies of soft tissue effects on joint mobility in extant animals can help to constrain hypotheses about joint mobility in extinct animals. However, joint mobility must be considered in three dimensions simultaneously, and applications of mobility data to extinct taxa require both a phylogenetically informed reconstruction of articular morphology and justifications for why specific structures' effects on mobility are inferred to be similar. We manipulated cadaveric hip joints of common quail and recorded biplanar fluoroscopic videos to measure a 'ligamentous' range of motion (ROM), which was then compared to an 'osteological' ROM on a ROM map. Nearly 95% of the joint poses predicted to be possible at the hip based on osteological manipulation were rendered impossible by ligamentous constraints. Because the hip joint capsule reliably includes a ventral ligamentous thickening in extant diapsids, the hip abduction of extinct ornithodirans with an offset femoral head and thin articular cartilage was probably similarly constrained by ligaments as that of birds. Consequently, in the absence of extraordinary evidence to the contrary, our analysis casts doubt on the 'batlike' hip pose traditionally inferred for pterosaurs and basal maniraptorans, and underscores that reconstructions of joint mobility based on manipulations of bones alone can be misleading.

Keywords: Ornithodira; Pterosauria; avian functional morphology; hip ligaments; joint mobility; range of motion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cadaver
  • Coturnix / physiology*
  • Dinosaurs / physiology*
  • Fossils*
  • Hip Joint / physiology*
  • Ligaments / physiology*
  • Range of Motion, Articular*

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4092521