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Keywords:

  • forelimb;
  • functional morphology;
  • Dinosauria;
  • Ceratopsia;
  • Psittacosaurus;
  • Leptoceratops;
  • Protoceratops

Abstract

Here, I present the first study of forelimb function in basal ceratopsians [Correction added after publication 28 July 2007: in the preceding sentence ‘Here, I present the first study of forelimb function in basal ceratopsians Dinosauria Orthischia’ was corrected to ‘Here, I present the first study of forelimb function in basal ceratopsians’]. I examined forelimb bones and casts of Psittacosaurus neimongoliensis, Psittacosaurus mongoliensis, Leptoceratops gracilis and Protoceratops andrewsi. For Ps. neimongoliensis and L. gracilis, I used manual manipulations of bones and casts to determine the range of motion at available forelimb joints. I then used range of motion and morphology to test the predictions of several hypotheses of forelimb function. Forelimb morphology and range of motion indicate that Psittacosaurus was an obligate biped and that Leptoceratops and Protoceratops were capable of quadrupedal locomotion. Forelimb mobility was too limited in Psittacosaurus for the hands to reach the mouth. Leptoceratops and Protoceratops are members of an evolutionary radiation in which an extension of the glenoid enabled the forelimbs to sprawl laterally for transverse pivoting, perhaps for display, but quadrupedal locomotion was accomplished with the elbows tucked in. In Protoceratops, the radius crosses over the ulna, causing the palms to face caudally. In Leptoceratops, the radius does not cross over the ulna; the palms face largely medially and the fingers have been reoriented so that flexion produces a caudal, propulsive force, even without caudally facing palms.