Soft tissue influence onex vivomobility in the hip ofIguana: comparison within vivomovement and its bearing on joint motion of fossil sprawling tetrapods

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Abstract

The reconstruction of a joint's maximum range of mobility (ROM) often is a first step when trying to understand the locomotion of fossil tetrapods. But previous studies suggest that the ROM of a joint is restricted by soft tissues surrounding the joint. To expand the limited informative value of ROM studies for the reconstruction of a fossil species' locomotor characteristics, it is moreover necessary to better understand the relationship of ex vivo ROM with the actual in vivo joint movement. To gain insight into the relationship between ex vivo mobility and in vivo movement, we systematically tested for the influence of soft tissues on joint ROM in the hip of the modern lizard Iguana iguana. Then, we compared the ex vivo mobility to in vivo kinematics of the hip joint in the same specimens using X-ray sequences of steady-state treadmill locomotion previously recorded. With stepwise removal of soft tissues and a repeated-measurement protocol, we show that soft tissues surrounding the hip joint considerably limit ROM, highlighting the problems when joint ROM is deduced from bare bones only. We found the integument to have the largest effect on the range of long-axis rotation, pro- and retraction. Importantly, during locomotion the iguana used only a fragment of the ROM that was measured in our least restrictive dissection situation (i.e. pelvis and femur only conjoined by ligaments), demonstrating the discrepancy between hip joint ROM and actual in vivo movement. Our study emphasizes the necessity for caution when attempting to reconstruct joint ROM or even locomotor kinematics from fossil bones only, as actual in vivo movement cannot be deduced directly from any condition of cadaver mobility in Iguana and likely in other tetrapods.

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