Christine Böhmer & Ingmar Werneburg (2017)
Deep time perspective on turtle neck evolution: chasing the Hox code by vertebral morphology.
Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 8939 (2017)
The unparalleled ability of turtle neck retraction is possible in three different modes, which characterize stem turtles, living side-necked (Pleurodira), and hidden-necked (Cryptodira) turtles, respectively. Despite the conservatism in vertebral count among turtles, there is significant functional and morphological regionalization in the cervical vertebral column. Since Hox genes play a fundamental role in determining the differentiation in vertebra morphology and based on our reconstruction of evolutionary genetics in deep time, we hypothesize genetic differences among the turtle groups and between turtles and other land vertebrates. We correlated anterior Hox gene _expression_ and the quantifiable shape of the vertebrae to investigate the morphological modularity in the neck across living and extinct turtles. This permitted the reconstruction of the hypothetical ancestral Hox code pattern of the whole turtle clade. The scenario of the evolution of axial patterning in turtles indicates shifts in the spatial _expression_ of HoxA-5 in relation to the reduction of cervical ribs in modern turtles and of HoxB-5 linked with a lower morphological differentiation between the anterior cervical vertebrae observed in cryptodirans. By comparison with the mammalian pattern, we illustrate how the fixed count of eight cervical vertebrae in turtles resulted from the emergence of the unique turtle shell.
Robert E. Kambic, Thomas J. Roberts and Stephen M. Gatesy (2017)
3-D range of motion envelopes reveal interacting degrees of freedom in avian hind limb joints.
Journal of Anatomy (advance online publication)
Measuring range of motion (ROM) is a valuable technique that can link bone morphology to joint function in both extant and extinct taxa. ROM results are commonly presented as tables or graphs of maxima and minima for each rotational degree of freedom. We investigate the interactions among three degrees of freedom using X-ray reconstruction of moving morphology (XROMM) to measure ROM of the main hind limb joints of Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris). By plotting each rotation on an axis, we generate three-dimensional ROM volumes or envelopes composed of hundreds of extreme joint positions for the hip, knee, and intertarsal joints. We find that the shapes of ROM volumes can be quite complex, and that the contribution of long-axis rotation is often substantial. Plotting in vivo poses from individual birds executing different behaviors shows varying use of potential rotational combinations within their ROM envelopes. XROMM can provide unprecedented high-resolution data on the spatial relationship of skeletal elements and thereby illuminate/elucidate the complex ways in which soft and hard tissues interact to produce functional joints. In joints with three rotational degrees of freedom, two-dimensional representations of ROM (flexion/extension and abduction/adduction) are incomplete.