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The evolution of hindlimb tendons and muscles on the line to crown-group birds.

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  • 1Biomechanical Engineering Division, Stanford University, Durand 209, BME, Stanford, CA 94305-4038, USA.


The anatomy and functions of muscle-tendon complexes and their bony attachments in birds and their outgroups show how the major pelvic limb muscle groups evolved. Fossils reveal that most changes evolved after the divergence of archosaurs in the Triassic, particularly in the dinosaurian precursors to birds. Three-dimensional limb control became concentrated at the hip joint; more distal joints and muscles were restricted to flexion or extension early in dinosaur evolution. Hip extensors expanded even though the primary femoral retractor M. caudofemoralis longus was reduced. Hip flexors and two-joint "hamstring" muscles were simplified to a few large heads. Knee extensors increased their sizes and moment arms early in bipedal dinosaurs, but the patella and cranial cnemial crest evolved later in birds. Lower limb muscles expanded as ossifications such as the hypotarsus increased their moment arms. The ossification of lower limb tendons, particularly in extensors, is a recent novelty of birds. Muscles and tendons that develop large forces, stresses, and moments to stabilize or move the limbs became increasingly prominent on the line to birds. Locomotion evolved in a stepwise pattern that only recently produced the derived limb control mechanisms of crown-group birds, such as the strongly flexed hip and knee joints.

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