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Temporal Bone Arrangements in Turtles: An Overview



    Corresponding author
    1. RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, Minatojima-minamimachi, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Japan
    2. Paläontologisches Institut und Museum der Universität Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
    • Fachbereich Geowissenschaften der Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
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  • Grant Sponsor: Swiss National Fund; Grant number: 3100A0-116013; Grant Sponsor: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; Grant number JO 928/1-1; Grant Sponsor JSPS fund; Grant number: PE 11027.

Correspondence to: Ingmar Werneburg,Fachbereich Geowissenschaften der Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Hölderlinstraβe, Tübingen, Germany. E-mail:


The temporal region of turtles is characterized by significant anatomical diversity. Turtles show a pure anapsid morphotype that exhibits various different marginal reductions known as emarginations. As a result of this diversity, turtles can be taken as a model by which to understand the processes that may have resulted in the highly debated anatomy of the amniote temporal region in general. In this review on almost forgotten literature, I summarize ten potential factors that may act on the skull to shape the temporal region of turtles. These are: (1) phylogenetic constraints, (2) skull weights, (3) type of food, (4) skull dimensions, (5) muscle bulging, (6) ear anatomy and jaw muscle bending mechanisms, (7) extent and nature of muscle attachment sites, (8) internal forces within the jaw adductor chamber, (9) environmental pressure, and (10) neck bending mechanisms. Particular focus is laid on the interrelationship of the jaw musculature and the dermatocranial armour, which were assumed to influence each other to a certain degree. In the literature, cranial dimensions were assumed to influence temporal bone formation within major tetrapod groups. Among these, turtles seem to represent a kind of intermixture, a phenomenon that may be reflected in their specific anatomy. The references presented should be understood as product of the scientific environment in which they developed and the older literature does not always insist current empirical demands. However, the intuitive and creative ideas and the comprehensive anatomical considerations of these authors may inspire future studies in several fields related to this topic. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 318:235–249, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.