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Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2007 Sep;290(9):1089-111.

Linear and geometric morphometric analysis of long bone scaling patterns in Jurassic neosauropod dinosaurs: their functional and paleobiological implications.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois 61455, USA.


Neosauropod dinosaurs were gigantic, herbivorous dinosaurs. Given that the limb skeleton is essentially a plastic, mobile framework that supports and moves the body, analysis of long bone scaling can reveal limb adaptations that supported neosauropod gigantism. Previously, analyses of linear dimensions have revealed a relatively isometric scaling pattern for the humerus and femur of neosauropods. Here, a combined scaling analysis of humerus and femur linear dimensions, cortical area, and shape across six neosauropod taxa is used to test the hypothesis that neosauropod long bones scaled isometrically and to investigate the paleobiological implications of these trends. A combination of linear regression and geometric morphometrics analyses of neosauropod humeri and femora were performed using traditional and thin-plate splines approaches. The neosauropod sample was very homogeneous, and linear analyses revealed that nearly all humerus and femur dimensions, including cortical area, scale with isometry against maximum length. Thin-plate splines analyses showed that little to no significant shape change occurs with increasing length or cortical area for the humerus or femur. Even with the exclusion of the long-limbed Brachiosaurus, the overall trends were consistently isometric. These results suggest that the mechanical advantage of limb-moving muscles and the relative range of limb movement decreased with increasing size. The isometric signal for neosauropod long bone dimensions and shape suggests these dinosaurs may have reached the upper limit of vertebrate long bone mechanics. Perhaps, like stilt-walkers, the absolutely long limbs of the largest neosauropods allowed for efficient locomotion at gigantic size with few ontogenetic changes.

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