Functional implications of the intertarsal joint shape in a terrestrial (Coturnix coturnix) versus a semi-aquatic bird (Callonetta leucophrys)

Authors

  • P. Provini,

    Corresponding author
    1. Université Paris Descartes, Paris cedex 06, France
    • Département d'Écologie et Gestion de la Biodiversité, UMR 7179 CNRS, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris, Paris, France
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  • C. Simonis,

    1. Département d'Écologie et Gestion de la Biodiversité, UMR 7179 CNRS, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris, Paris, France
    2. Ministère de l'Éducation Nationale, Paris, France
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  • A. Abourachid

    1. Département d'Écologie et Gestion de la Biodiversité, UMR 7179 CNRS, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris, Paris, France
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  • Editor: Andrew Kitchener

Correspondence

Pauline Provini, Département d'Écologie et Gestion de la Biodiversité, UMR 7179 CNRS, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris, 55 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, France. Tel: +33 1 40795714

Email: provini@mnhn.fr

Abstract

As birds have a diversity of locomotor behaviors, their skeleton is subjected to a variety of mechanical constraints (gravitational, aerodynamic and sometimes hydrodynamic forces). Yet, only minor modifications in post-cranial skeleton shape are observed across the diversity of avian species in comparison with other vertebrates. The goal of this study was to explore potential morphological adjustments that allow locomotion in different habitats in Anatidae. Specifically, we compared a strictly terrestrial bird, the common quail Coturnix coturnix, and a semi-aquatic bird, the ringed teal Callonetta leucophrys, to explore whether their anatomy reflects the constraints of locomotion in different habitats (water vs. land). We compared the tibiotarsus and the tarsometatarsus shape between the two species using a geometric morphometric approach. Our data illustrate distinct differences between species with a more medially oriented intertarsal joint in the ringed teal than in the common quail, which may be linked to the kinematics of walking and paddling. This study lays the foundations to understand the functional requirements for moving in both terrestrial and aquatic environments in Anatidae, and suggests morphological characteristics of the bird hindlimb skeleton that may help to predict the motions it is capable of.

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