Articular soft tissue anatomy of the archosaur hip joint: Structural homology and functional implications


Archosaurs evolved a wide diversity of locomotor postures, body sizes, and hip joint morphologies. The two extant archosaurs clades (birds and crocodylians) possess highly divergent hip joint morphologies, and the homologies and functions of their articular soft tissues, such as ligaments, cartilage, and tendons, are poorly understood. Reconstructing joint anatomy and function of extinct vertebrates is critical to understanding their posture, locomotor behavior, ecology, and evolution. However, the lack of soft tissues in fossil taxa makes accurate inferences of joint function difficult. Here, we describe the soft tissue anatomies and their osteological correlates in the hip joint of archosaurs and their sauropsid outgroups, and infer structural homology across the extant taxa. A comparative sample of 35 species of birds, crocodylians, lepidosaurs, and turtles ranging from hatchling to skeletally mature adult were studied using dissection, imaging, and histology. Birds and crocodylians possess topologically and histologically consistent articular soft tissues in their hip joints. Epiphyseal cartilages, fibrocartilages, and ligaments leave consistent osteological correlates. The archosaur acetabulum possesses distinct labrum and antitrochanter structures on the supraacetabulum. The ligamentum capitis femoris consists of distinct pubic- and ischial attachments, and is homologous with the ventral capsular ligament of lepidosaurs. The proximal femur has a hyaline cartilage core attached to the metaphysis via a fibrocartilaginous sleeve. This study provides new insight into soft tissue structures and their osteological correlates (e.g., the antitrochanter, the fovea capitis, and the metaphyseal collar) in the archosaur hip joint. The topological arrangement of fibro- and hyaline cartilage may provide mechanical support for the chondroepiphysis. The osteological correlates identified here will inform systematic and functional analyses of archosaur hindlimb evolution and provide the anatomical foundation for biomechanical investigations of joint tissues.

Document Type





Articulation, Cartilage, Epiphysis, Fibrocartilage, Ligament

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Morphology