The Company of Biologists Ltd
In vivo measurements of strain in the femur and tibia of Iguana iguana (Linnaeus) and Alligator mississippiensis (Daudin) have indicated three ways in which limb bone loading in these species differs from patterns observed in most birds and mammals: (i) the limb bones of I. iguana and A. mississippiensis experience substantial torsion, (ii) the limb bones of I. iguana and A. mississippiensis have higher safety factors than those of birds or mammals, and (iii) load magnitudes in the limb bones of A. mississippiensis do not decrease uniformly with the use of a more upright posture. To verify these patterns, and to evaluate the ground and muscle forces that produce them, we collected three-dimensional kinematic and ground reaction force data from subadult I. iguana and A. mississippiensis using a force platform and high-speed video. The results of these force/kinematic studies generally confirm the loading regimes inferred from in vivo strain measurements. The ground reaction force applies a torsional moment to the femur and tibia in both species; for the femur, this moment augments the moment applied by the caudofemoralis muscle, suggesting large torsional stresses. In most cases, safety factors in bending calculated from force/video data are lower than those determined from strain data, but are as high or higher than the safety factors of bird and mammal limb bones in bending. Finally, correlations between limb posture and calculated stress magnitudes in the femur of I. iguana confirm patterns observed during direct bone strain recordings from A. mississippiensis: in more upright steps, tensile stresses on the anterior cortex decrease, but peak compressive stresses on the dorsal cortex increase. Equilibrium analyses indicate that bone stress increases as posture becomes more upright in saurians because the ankle and knee extensor muscles exert greater forces during upright locomotion. If this pattern of increased bone stress with the use of a more upright posture is typical of taxa using non-parasagittal kinematics, then similar increases in load magnitudes were probably experienced by lineages that underwent evolutionary shifts to a non-sprawling posture. High limb bone safety factors and small body size in these lineages could have helped to accommodate such increases in limb bone stress.
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