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Science. 2003 Jan 17;299(5605):400-2.

Hypaxial motor patterns and the function of epipubic bones in primitive mammals.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701, USA.


Since the first description of epipubic bones in 1698, their functions and those of the associated abdominal muscles of monotremes and marsupial mammals have remained unresolved. We show that each epipubic bone is part of a kinetic linkage extending from the femur, by way of the pectineus muscle, to the epipubic bone, through the pyramidalis and rectus abdominis muscles on one side of the abdomen, and through the contralateral external and internal oblique muscles to the vertebrae and ribs of the opposite side. This muscle series is activated synchronously as the femur and contralateral forelimb are retracted during the stance phase in locomotion. The epipubic bone acts as a lever that is retracted (depressed) to stiffen the trunk between the diagonal limbs that support the body during each step. This cross-couplet kinetic linkage and the stiffening function of the epipubic bone appear to be the primitive conditions for mammals.

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