A proposed standard for quantifying 3-D hindlimb joint poses in living and extinct archosaurs

J Anat. 2022 Jul;241(1):101-118. doi: 10.1111/joa.13635. Epub 2022 Feb 3.


The last common ancestor of birds and crocodylians plus all of its descendants (clade Archosauria) dominated terrestrial Mesozoic ecosystems, giving rise to disparate body plans, sizes, and modes of locomotion. As in the fields of vertebrate morphology and paleontology more generally, studies of archosaur skeletal structure have come to depend on tools for acquiring, measuring, and exploring three-dimensional (3-D) digital models. Such models, in turn, form the basis for many analyses of musculoskeletal function. A set of shared conventions for describing 3-D pose (joint or limb configuration) and 3-D kinematics (change in pose through time) is essential for fostering comparison of posture/movement among such varied species, as well as for maximizing communication among scientists. Following researchers in human biomechanics, we propose a standard methodological approach for measuring the relative position and orientation of the major segments of the archosaur pelvis and hindlimb in 3-D. We describe the construction of anatomical and joint coordinate systems using the extant guineafowl and alligator as examples. Our new standards are then applied to three extinct taxa sampled from the wider range of morphological, postural, and kinematic variation that has arisen across >250 million years of archosaur evolution. These proposed conventions, and the founding principles upon which they are based, can also serve as starting points for measuring poses between elements within a hindlimb segment, for establishing coordinate systems in the forelimb and axial skeleton, or for applying our archosaurian system more broadly to different vertebrate clades.

Keywords: XROMM; comparison; hindlimb; joint; standard.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alligators and Crocodiles* / anatomy & histology
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Ecosystem
  • Hindlimb / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity
  • Vertebrates