Massospondylus - Paleobiology - Gait and Range of Motion

Gait and Range of Motion

Although long assumed to have been quadrupedal, a 2007 anatomical study of the forelimbs has questioned this, arguing that their limited range of motion precluded effective habitual quadrupedal gait. Neither could the forelimbs swing fore and behind in a fashion similar to the hindlimbs, nor could the hand be rotated with the palmar surfaces facing downwards. This inability to pronate the hand is also supported by in-situ finds of articulated (still-connected) arms that always show unrotated hands with palmar faces facing each other. The study also ruled out the possibility of "knuckle-walking" and other forms of locomotion that would make a effective locomotion possible without the need to pronate the hand. Although its mass suggests a quadrupedal nature, Massospondylus would have been restricted to its hind legs for locomotion.

Since the discovery of rudimentary and nonfunctional clavicles in ceratopsians it was assumed that these shoulder bones were reduced in all dinosaurs that did not have true furculae. Robert Bakker (1987) suggested that this would have allowed the shoulder blades to swung with the forelimbs in quadrupedal dinosaurs, increasing their functional forelimb length. This would have reduced the discrepancy of length between fore- and hindlimbs in a quadrupedal Massospondylus. However, a recent discovery shows that Massospondylus possessed well-developed clavicles that were joined in a furcula-like arrangement, acting like a clasp between the right and left shoulder blades and prohibiting any rotation of these bones. This discovery indicates that the clavicle reduction is limited to the evolutionary line leading to the ceratopsians. It also indicates that the furcula of birds is derived from clavicles.

Michael Cooper (1981) noted that the zygapophyses of the neck vertebrae were inclined, prohibiting significant horizontal movement of the neck, so that “consequently any significant movement in this direction must have been accomplished by a change in the position of the entire body”. This was contradicted in a recent study, noting that only the basalmost cervicals show inclined zygapophyses, allowing sufficient horizontal movement of the neck as a whole.

Read more about this topic:  Massospondylus, Paleobiology

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