Christine BÃhmer , Olivia Plateau , RaphÃel CornetteÂ and Anick Abourachid (2019)
Correlated evolution of neck length and leg length in birds.
Royal Society Open Science 6(5): 181588.
Despite a diversity of about 10 000 extant species, the sophisticated avian 'body plan' has not much changed once it was achieved around 160 Ma after the origin of powered flight. All birds are bipedal having wings, a rigid trunk, a short and ossified tail, a three-segmented leg and digitigrade feet. The avian neck, however, has always been regarded as a classic example of high variability ranging from short necks in songbirds to extremely long, serpentine necks in herons. Yet, the wide array of small to very large species makes it difficult to evaluate the actual neck length. Here, we investigate the evolution of the vertebral formulae in the neck of birds and the scaling relationships between skeletal dimensions and body size. Cervical count in birds is strongly related to phylogeny, with only some specialists having an exceptional number of vertebrae in the neck. In contrast with mammals, the length of the cervical vertebral column increases as body size increases and, thus, body size does not constrain neck length in birds. Indeed, neck length scales isometrically with total leg length suggesting a correlated evolution between both modules. The strong integration between the cervical and pelvic module in birds is in contrast with the decoupling of the fore- and hindlimb module and may be the result of the loss of a functionally versatile forelimb due to the evolution of powered flight.
Peter J. Bishop, R. Paul Scofield & Scott A. Hocknull (2019)
The architecture of cancellous bone in the hindlimb of moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes), with implications for stance and gait.
Alcheringa (advance online publication)
The extinct, flightless moa of New Zealand included some of the largest birds to have existed and possessed many distinguishing pelvic and hindlimb osteological features. These features may have influenced stance and gait in moa compared with extant birds. One means of assessing locomotor biomechanics, particularly for extinct species, is quantitative analysis of the architecture of cancellous bone, since this architecture is adapted to suit its mechanical environment with high sensitivity. This study investigated the three-dimensional architecture of cancellous bone in the femur, tibiotarsus and fibula of three moa species: Dinornis robustus, Pachyornis elephantopus and Megalapteryx didinus. Using computed tomographic X-ray scanning and previously developed fabric analysis techniques, the spatial variation in cancellous bone fabric patterns in moa was found to be largely comparable with that previously reported for extant birds, particularly large species. Moa hence likely used postures and kinematics similar to those employed by large extant bird species, but this interpretation is tentative on account of relatively small sample sizes. A point of major difference between moa and extant birds concerns the diaphyses; cancellous bone invades the medullary cavity in both groups, but the invasion is far more extensive in moa. Combined with previous assessments of cortical geometry, this further paints a picture of at least some moa species possessing very robust limb bones, for which a convincing explanation remains to be determined.
Julian P. Hume &Â David Martill (2019)
Repeated evolution of flightlessness in Dryolimnas rails (Aves: Rallidae) after extinction and recolonization on Aldabra.
Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, zlz018 (advance online publication)
The Aldabra rail, Dryolimnas cuvieri subsp. aldabranus, endemic to the Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles, is the last surviving flightless bird in the Indian Ocean. Aldabra has undergone at least one major, total inundation event during an Upper Pleistocene (Tarantian age) sea-level high-stand, resulting in the loss of all terrestrial fauna. A flightless Dryolimnas has been identified from two temporally separated Aldabran fossil localities, deposited before and after the inundation event, providing irrefutable evidence that a member of Rallidae colonized the atoll, most likely from Madagascar, and became flightless independently on each occasion. Fossil evidence presented here is unique for Rallidae and epitomizes the ability of birds from this clade to successfully colonize isolated islands and evolve flightlessness on multiple occasions.