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Cellular preservation of musculoskeletal specializations in the Cretaceous bird Confuciusornis

DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14779 DOI Help

Authors: Baoyu Jiang (Chinese Academy of Sciences) , Tao Zhao (Nanjing University) , Sophie Regnault (Royal Veterinary College, University of London) , Nicholas P. Edwards (University of Manchester) , Simon C. Kohn (University of Bristol) , Zhiheng Li (Chinese Academy of Sciences) , Roy A. Wogelius (University of Manchester) , Michael J. Benton (University of Bristol) , John R. Hutchinson (The Royal Veterinary College, University of London)
Co-authored by industrial partner: No

Type: Journal Paper
Journal: Nature Communications , VOL 8 , PAGES 14779

State: Published (Approved)
Published: March 2017
Diamond Proposal Number(s): 9488

Open Access Open Access

Abstract: The hindlimb of theropod dinosaurs changed appreciably in the lineage leading to extant birds, becoming more ‘crouched’ in association with changes to body shape and gait dynamics. This postural evolution included anatomical changes of the foot and ankle, altering the moment arms and control of the muscles that manipulated the tarsometatarsus and digits, but the timing of these changes is unknown. Here, we report cellular-level preservation of tendon- and cartilage-like tissues from the lower hindlimb of Early Cretaceous Confuciusornis. The digital flexor tendons passed through cartilages, cartilaginous cristae and ridges on the plantar side of the distal tibiotarsus and proximal tarsometatarsus, as in extant birds. In particular, fibrocartilaginous and cartilaginous structures on the plantar surface of the ankle joint of Confuciusornis may indicate a more crouched hindlimb posture. Recognition of these specialized soft tissues in Confuciusornis is enabled by our combination of imaging and chemical analyses applied to an exceptionally preserved fossil.

Journal Keywords: Biomechanics; Palaeontology

Subject Areas: Biology and Bio-materials, Earth Science

Instruments: I18-Microfocus Spectroscopy