Functional morphology of neck musculature in the Tyrannosauridae (Dinosauria, Theropoda) as determined via a hierarchical inferential approach

Eric Snively, Anthony P. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Scopus citations


With multiple well-preserved specimens, tyrannosaurid dinosaurs are ideal subjects for exploring the role of the neck for feeding in an extinct amniote clade. Detailed exploration of the morphology of avian and crocodilian neck muscles grounds phylogenetic inference of musculature of tyrannosaurids. Introduced methods of kinematic and physiological inference explicate action and function of tyrannosaurid neck muscles, and the explicit method of extant behavioural interpolation (EBI) allows inference of generalized behaviours. Anteriorly originating craniocervical muscles of tyrannosaurids, and insertions of the neck dorsiflexor m. transversospinalis cervicis, were similar to those of birds, while the major respective head dorsiflexor and lateroflexor, m. transversospinalis capitis and m. longissimus capitis superficialis, resembled their homologues in crocodilians. Because the proposed inferential methods are cumulative and emphasize mutual falsification, behavioural effects of muscle function become immediately testable rather than assumed. Kinematic inference of muscle moment topology, and bracketed and unipolar inference of muscle activity, facilitate EBI of rapid gaze shifts, lateral and sagittal strikes, inertial feeding, and tearing of flesh by specific permutational actions of tyrannosaurid neck muscles. Several examples of EBI are tested further through biomechanical considerations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)759-808
Number of pages50
JournalZoological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes



  • Aves
  • Behaviour
  • Crocodylia
  • Electromyography
  • Feeding
  • Muscle

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