Clavicles, interclavicles, gastralia, and sternal ribs in sauropod dinosaurs: new reports from Diplodocidae and their morphological, functional and evolutionary implications

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Abstract

Ossified gastralia, clavicles and sternal ribs are known in a variety of reptilians, including dinosaurs. In sauropods, however, the identity of these bones is controversial. The peculiar shapes of these bones complicate their identification, which led to various differing interpretations in the past. Here we describe different elements from the chest region of diplodocids, found near Shell, Wyoming, USA. Five morphotypes are easily distinguishable: (A) elongated, relatively stout, curved elements with a spatulate and a bifurcate end resemble much the previously reported sauropod clavicles, but might actually represent interclavicles; (B) short, L-shaped elements, mostly preserved as a symmetrical pair, probably are the real clavicles, as indicated by new findings in diplodocids; (C) slender, rod-like bones with rugose ends are highly similar to elements identified as sauropod sternal ribs; (D) curved bones with wide, probably medial ends constitute the fourth morphotype, herein interpreted as gastralia; and (E) irregularly shaped elements, often with extended rugosities, are included into the fifth morphotype, tentatively identified as sternal ribs and/or intercostal elements. To our knowledge, the bones previously interpreted as sauropod clavicles were always found as single bones, which sheds doubt on the validity of their identification. Various lines of evidence presented herein suggest they might actually be interclavicles - which are single elements. This would be the first definitive evidence of interclavicles in dinosauromorphs. Previously supposed interclavicles in the early sauropodomorph Massospondylus or the theropods Oviraptor and Velociraptor were later reinterpreted as clavicles or furculae. Independent from their identification, the existence of the reported bones has both phylogenetic and functional significance. Their presence in non-neosauropod Eusauropoda and Flagellicaudata and probable absence in rebbachisaurs and Titanosauriformes shows a clear character polarity. This implicates that the ossification of these bones can be considered plesiomorphic for Sauropoda. The proposed presence of interclavicles in sauropods may give further support to a recent study, which finds a homology of the avian furcula with the interclavicle to be equally parsimonious to the traditional theory that furcula were formed by the fusion of the clavicles. Functional implications are the stabilizing of the chest region, which coincides with the development of elongated cervical and caudal vertebral columns or the use of the tail as defensive weapon. The loss of ossified chest bones coincides with more widely spaced limbs, and the evolution of a wide-gauge locomotor style.
Original languageUnknown
Pages (from-to)321-340
JournalJournal Of Anatomy
Volume222
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

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