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Evolution of posture in amniotes–Diving into the trabecular architecture of the femoral head

  • Gônet, Jordan
  • Laurin, Michel
Publication Date
Jun 26, 2023
DOI: 10.1111/jeb.14187
OAI: oai:HAL:hal-04238479v1
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Extant amniotes show remarkable postural diversity. Broadly speaking, limbs with erect (strongly adducted, more vertically oriented) posture are found in mammals that are particularly heavy (graviportal) or show good running skills (cursorial), while crouched (highly flexed) limbs are found in taxa with more generalized locomotion. In Reptilia, crocodylians have a “semi-erect” (somewhat adducted) posture, birds have more crouched limbs and lepidosaurs have sprawling (well-abducted) limbs. Both synapsids and reptiles underwent a postural transition from sprawling to more erect limbs during the Mesozoic Era. In Reptilia, this postural change is prominent among archosauriforms in the Triassic Period. However, limb posture in many key Triassic taxa remains poorly known. In Synapsida, the chronology of this transition is less clear, and competing hypotheses exist. On land, the limb bones are subject to various stresses related to body support that partly shape their external and internal morphology. Indeed, bone trabeculae (lattice-like bony struts that form the spongy bone tissue) tend to orient themselves along lines of force. Here, we study the link between femoral posture and the femoral trabecular architecture using phylogenetic generalized least squares. We show that microanatomical parameters measured on bone cubes extracted from the femoral head of a sample of amniote femora depend strongly on body mass, but not on femoral posture or lifestyle. We reconstruct ancestral states of femoral posture and various microanatomical parameters to study the “sprawling-to-erect” transition in reptiles and synapsids, and obtain conflicting results. We tentatively infer femoral posture in several hypothetical ancestors using phylogenetic flexible discriminant analysis from maximum likelihood estimates of the microanatomical parameters. In general, the trabecular network of the femoral head is not a good indicator of femoral posture. However, ancestral state reconstruction methods hold great promise for advancing our understanding of the evolution of posture in amniotes.

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