Comparative anatomy, homologies and evolution of the pectoral and forelimb musculature of tetrapods with special attention to extant limbed amphibians and reptiles

Nov 1, 2010

The main aim of the present work is to synthesize the information obtained from our dissections of the pectoral and forelimb muscles of representative members of the major extant taxa of limbed amphibians and reptiles and from our review of the literature, in order to provide an account of the comparative anatomy, homologies and evolution of these muscles in the Tetrapoda. The pectoral and forelimb musculature of all these major taxa conform to a general pattern that seems to have been acquired very early in the evolutionary history of tetrapods. Although some muscles are missing in certain taxa, and a clear departure from this general pattern is obviously present in derived groups such as birds, the same overall configuration is easily distinguishable in these taxa. Among the most notable anatomical differences between the groups, one that seems to have relevant evolutionary and functional implications, concerns the distal insertion points of the forearm musculature. In tetrapods, the muscles of the radial and ulnar complexes of the forearm are pleisomorphically mainly inserted onto the radius/ulna or onto the more proximal carpal bones, but in mammals some of these muscles insert more distally onto bones such as the metacarpals. Interestingly, a similar trend towards a more distal insertion of these muscles is also found in some non-mammalian tetrapod taxa, such as some anurans (e.g. Phyllomedusa). This may be correlated with the acquisition of more subtle digital movement abilities in these latter taxa.