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Microstructure of Vertebrae, Ribs, and Gastralia of Triassic Sauropterygians—New Insights into the Microanatomical Processes Involved in Aquatic Adaptations of Marine Reptiles

Abstract : Isolated ribs and vertebrae of Middle Triassic sauropterygians are studied. The vertebrae have a well‐defined large cavity in their centra, which is a unique feature and is without any modern analogue. The articular facets of vertebrae are made of endochondral bone including calcified as well as uncalcified cartilage. Vertebrae are pachyosteosclerotic in the pachypleurosaurs Neusticosaurus and Serpianosaurus from the Alpine Triassic, and osteosclerotic in the placodont, in the medium‐sized Nothosaurus marchicus, and in the pachypleurosaur Anarosaurus. In large Nothosaurus specimens, the vertebrae are cavernous. The ribs of all sampled specimens are osteosclerotic, which resembles the microanatomy of long bones in all studied taxa. The proximal to medial part of ribs mainly consists of a compact periosteal cortex surrounding an inner endosteal territory. Toward the distal end of the ribs, the periosteal thickness decreases whereas the endosteal territory increases. Despite a shift from periosteal versus endosteal tissues, global rib compactness remains relatively constant. Osteosclerosis in ribs and vertebrae is reached by the same processes as in the long bones: by a relative increase in cortex thickness that is coupled by a reduction of the medullary cavity, by the persistence of calcified cartilage, and by an inhibition of remodeling although some resorption may occur but without complete redeposition of bone. Processes differ from those observed in Permian marine reptiles and some mosasaurines, where either extensive remodeling or inhibition of bone resorption leads to osteosclerosis. Besides differences regarding the microanatomy, all studied bones of a taxon are consistent in their bone tissue type
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Nicole Klein, Aurore Canoville, Alexandra Houssaye. Microstructure of Vertebrae, Ribs, and Gastralia of Triassic Sauropterygians—New Insights into the Microanatomical Processes Involved in Aquatic Adaptations of Marine Reptiles. Anatomical Record: Advances in Integrative Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology, Wiley-Blackwell, 2019, 302 (10), pp.1770-1791. ⟨10.1002/ar.24140⟩. ⟨hal-02351319⟩

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