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Keywords:

  • flexor plate;
  • forearm muscles;
  • grasping hand;
  • lizards;
  • palmar sesamoid;
  • tendons

Abstract

In lizards, distinct patterns of the tendinous structures associated with the forearm flexors have been described. In most lizards, the m. flexor digitorum longus ends in a tendinous plate with an embedded sesamoid, from which tendons run to the terminal phalanx of each digit. This structure is known as the flexor plate. In many polychrotid lizards, however, the flexor digitorum longus muscle is continuous with individual tendons running to each digit, and no complete flexor plate is present. In most geckos, the flexor plate is reduced to a tendinous plate without sesamoid. To evaluate the consequences of these differences in morphology on locomotion and grasping, we compared the use of the fore-arm and hand in lizards exhibiting three different tendon patterns (Pogona vitticeps, an agamid with a well-developed flexor plate; Gekko gecko, a gekkonid with a flexor plate, but without an embedded sesamoid; Anolis equestris, a polychrotid without flexor plate, but showing independent tendons running to each digit) while moving on different substrates. We found that the presence of a flexor plate with sesamoid bone prevents digital flexion and creates a rather stiff palmar surface in P. vitticeps. This configuration makes it impossible for P. vitticeps to grasp narrow branches and results in a strongly impaired locomotor performance on narrow substrates. Both G. gecko and A. equestris can flex the palms of their hands and their fingers more extensively, and do so when moving on narrow substrates. We suggest that the reduction of the flexor plate in both G. gecko and A. equestris allows these animals to move effectively on narrow substrates. Anat Rec, 292:842–853, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.