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Relationships of mass properties and body proportions to locomotor habit in terrestrial Archosauria


Bishop, Peter et al. (2020), Relationships of mass properties and body proportions to locomotor habit in terrestrial Archosauria, Dryad, Dataset,


Throughout their 250 Myr history, archosaurian reptiles have exhibited a wide array of body sizes, shapes and locomotor habits, especially in regard to terrestriality. These features make Archosauria a useful clade with which to study the interplay between body size, shape and locomotor behaviour, and how this interplay may have influenced locomotor evolution. Here, digital volumetric models of 80 taxa are used to explore how mass properties and body proportions relate to each other and locomotor posture in archosaurs. One-way, non-parametric, multivariate analysis of variance, based on the results of principal components analysis, shows that bipedal and quadrupedal archosaurs are largely distinguished from each other on the basis of just four anatomical parameters (P < 0.001): mass, centre of mass position and relative forelimb and hindlimb lengths. This facilitates the development of a quantitative predictive framework that can help assess gross locomotor posture in understudied or controversial taxa, such as the crocodile-line Batrachotomus (predicted quadruped) and Postosuchus (predicted biped). Compared to quadrupedal archosaurs, bipedal species tend to have relatively longer hindlimbs and a more caudally positioned whole-body centre of mass, and collectively exhibit greater variance in forelimb lengths. These patterns are interpreted to reflect differing biomechanical constraints acting on the archosaurian bauplan in bipedal versus quadrupedal groups, which may have shaped the evolutionary histories of their respective members.

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H2020 European Research Council, Award: Advanced Investigator Grant (695517) to J.R.H.