Ontogenetic similarities between giraffe and sauropod neck osteological mobility

The functional morphology of sauropod dinosaur long necks has been studied extensively, with virtual approaches yielding results that are difficult to obtain with actual fossils, due to their extreme fragility and size. However, analyses on virtual fossils have been questioned on several of their premises, such as the ability to accurately reconstruct intervertebral tissue with only skeletal data; or whether zygapophyseal overlap can be used to determine the limits of range of motion, since some extreme neck poses in extant giraffes have been claimed not to retain any zygapophyseal overlap. We compared articulation and range of motion in extant giraffes with the exceptionally well-preserved and complete basally branching eusauropod Spinophorosaurus nigerensis from the Middle (?)  Jurassic of Niger, under the same virtual paleontology protocols. We examined the articulation and range of motion on grown and young specimens of both Spinophorosaurus and giraffes in order to record any potential changes during ontogeny. Also, the postures of virtual giraffes were compared with previously published data from living animals in the wild. Our analyses show that: (i) articulation of virtual bones in osteologically neutral pose (ONP) does enable accurate prediction of the amount of inter-vertebral space in giraffes and, roughly, in Spinophorosaurus; (ii) even the most extreme neck postures attained by living giraffes in the wild do not require to disarticulate cervical vertebrae; (iii) both living giraffes and Spinophorosaurus have large intervertebral spaces between their cervical centra in early ontogenetical stages, which decrease as ontogeny advances; and (iv) that grown specimens have a greater osteological range of motion in living giraffes and Spinophorosaurus.

Last Updated
January 27, 2021
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