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J Morphol. 2007 Aug;268(8):701-14.

Flexibility along the neck of the ostrich (Struthio camelus) and consequences for the reconstruction of dinosaurs with extreme neck length.

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Institut für Biologie, Department IV, Universität Flensburg, 24943 Flensburg, Germany.


The gross morphology and the flexibility along the neck of the ostrich (Struthio camelus) were examined using fresh tissue as well as neck skeletons. The results of the morphologic studies were compared with results from observations of living ostriches. The investigation was focused on differences in the morphology and the function between different sections of the neck. Additionally, the function of major dorsal neck ligaments was examined, including measurements of force-strain-relations. Comparative studies of giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) and camels (Camelus bactrianus) were conducted to find relations between the flexibility along the neck and the general feeding strategy. The examinations revealed that the neck of the ostrich can be divided into four sections with different functions. The first is the atlas-axis-complex which is responsible for torsion. The adjacent cranial section of the neck is flexible in dorsoventral and lateral directions but this part of the neck is usually kept straight at rest and during feeding. Dorsoventral flexibility is highest in the middle section of the neck, whereas the base of the neck is primarily used for lateral excursions of the neck. For giraffes and camels, the posture and utilization of the neck are also reflected in the flexibility of the neck. For all three species, it is possible to reconstruct the pattern of flexibility of the neck by using the neck skeletons alone. Therefore, it appears reasonable to reconstruct the neck utilization and the feeding strategies of dinosaurs with long necks by deriving the flexibility of the neck from preserved vertebrae. For Diplodocus carnegii the neck posture and the feeding strategy were reconstructed. Two neck regions, one around the 9th neck vertebra and the second at the base of the neck, indicate that Diplodocus, like the ostrich, adopted different neck postures. The neck was probably kept very low during feeding. During interruptions of the feeding, e.g., in an alert, the head could have been lifted in an economic way by raising the cranial section of the neck. During standing and locomotion the head was probably located well above the shoulders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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