Walking with early dinosaurs: appendicular myology of the Late Triassic sauropodomorph Thecodontosaurus antiquus

Antonio Ballell*, Emily J Rayfield, Michael Benton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


Dinosaur evolution is marked by numerous independent shifts from bipedality to quadrupedality. Sauropodomorpha is one of the lineages that transitioned from small bipedal forms to graviportal quadrupeds, with an array of intermediate postural strategies evolving in non-sauropodan sauropodomorphs. This locomotor shift is reflected by multiple modifications of the appendicular skeleton, coupled with a drastic rearrangement of the limb musculature. Here, we describe the osteological correlates of appendicular muscle attachment of the Late Triassic sauropodomorph Thecodontosaurus antiquus from multiple well-preserved specimens and provide the first complete forelimb and hindlimb musculature reconstruction of an early-branching sauropodomorph. Comparisons with other sauropodomorphs and early dinosaurs reveal a unique combination of both plesiomorphic and derived musculoskeletal features. The diversity of appendicular osteological correlates among early dinosaurs and their relevance in muscle reconstruction are discussed. In line with previous evidence, aspects of the limb muscle arrangement, such as conspicuous correlates of lower limb extensors and flexors and low moment arms of hip extensors and flexors, suggest Thecodontosaurus was an agile biped. This reconstruction helps to elucidate the timing of important modifications of the appendicular musculature in the evolution of sauropodomorphs which facilitated the transition to quadrupedalism and contributed to their evolutionary success.
Original languageEnglish
Article number211356
Number of pages27
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
A.B. is funded by a NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership studentship from the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/L002434/1). M.J.B. is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council BETR programme (NE/P013724/1). Acknowledgements

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors.


  • dinosaur
  • sauropodomorph
  • Triassic
  • muscle reconstruction
  • osteological correlates
  • locomotion


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