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Title: Cranial joint histology in the mallard duck ( Anas platyrhynchos ): new insights on avian cranial kinesis

The evolution of avian cranial kinesis is a phenomenon in part responsible for the remarkable diversity of avian feeding adaptations observable today. Although osteological, developmental and behavioral features of the feeding system are frequently studied, comparatively little is known about cranial joint skeletal tissue composition and morphology from a microscopic perspective. These data are key to understanding the developmental, biomechanical and evolutionary underpinnings of kinesis. Therefore, here we investigated joint microstructure in juvenile and adult mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos; Anseriformes). Ducks belong to a diverse clade of galloanseriform birds, have derived adaptations for herbivory and kinesis, and are model organisms in developmental biology. Thus, new insights into their cranial functional morphology will refine our understanding of avian cranial evolution. A total of five specimens (two ducklings and three adults) were histologically sampled, and two additional specimens (a duckling and an adult) were subjected to micro‐computed tomographic scanning. Five intracranial joints were sampled: the jaw joint (quadrate‐articular); otic joint (quadrate‐squamosal); palatobasal joint (parasphenoid‐pterygoid); the mandibular symphysis (dentary‐dentary); and the craniofacial hinge (a complex flexion zone involving four different pairs of skeletal elements). In both the ducklings and adults, the jaw, otic and palatobasal joints are all synovial, with a synovial cavity and articular cartilage on each surface (i.e. bichondral joints) ensheathed in a fibrous capsule. The craniofacial hinge begins as an ensemble of patent sutures in the duckling, but in the adult it becomes more complex: laterally it is synovial; whereas medially, it is synostosed by a bridge of chondroid bone. We hypothesize that it is chondroid bone that provides some of the flexible properties of this joint. The heavily innervated mandibular symphysis is already fused in the ducklings and remains as such in the adult. The results of this study will serve as reference for documenting avian cranial kinesis from a microanatomical perspective. The formation of: (i) secondary articular cartilage on the membrane bones of extant birds; and (ii) their unique ability to form movable synovial joints within two or more membrane bones (i.e. within their dermatocranium) might have played a role in the origin and evolution of modern avian cranial kinesis during dinosaur evolution.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Anatomy
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 444-460
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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