Let’s add PILs to the Poposaurus foot

and see what happens…

The question posed by Farlow et al (2014) is were the toes of Poposaurus (Figs. 1-3) splayed or nearly parallel? Farlow (Fig. 1) showed both possibilities in a digitigrade fashion. Here (Fig. 1) I added PILs (parallel interphalangeal lines, (Peters 2000, 2011) to see which possibility produced the simplest set of PILs.

Figure 1. From Farlow et al. 2014) showing the Poposaurus foot in plantigrade and digitigrade poses. In the ghosted addition I added a digitigrade configuration, but so high as in the Farlow examples. In any case, digit 1 impresses, but shares no PILs, so it acts as a vestige, no longer part of the phalangeal sets.

Figure 1. From Farlow et al. 2014) showing the Poposaurus foot in plantigrade and digitigrade poses. In the ghosted addition I added a digitigrade configuration, but so high as in the Farlow examples. In any case, digit 1 impresses, but shares no PILs, so it acts as a vestige, no longer part of the phalangeal sets. The metatarsals in ventral view are also ghosted to better show the bones that would have contributed to making a footprint. Note: the medial and lateral PILs are complete, but the transverse set is not, but becomes more so with the spreading toes.

Farlow et al. created their splayed foot by spreading the digits as far as they could go on the distal metatarsals. Another way to do this would be to rotate the medial and lateral metatarsals, creating a metatarsal arc, but this was not attempted by Farlow et al. Even a slight axial rotation of these metatarsals would have splayed the digits just a little bit more.

And that’s really all you need.

Here (Fig. 2) we look at an even more splayed foot and now we have complete PILs even in the transverse set, which is the one Poposaurus would have used for locomotion, as in birds and theropods.

Figure 2. When you splay the digits of Poposaurus just a little bit more, the transverse PILs become complete and uninterrupted. This, then, is the most likely configuration of the pes.

Figure 2. When you splay the digits of Poposaurus just a little bit more, the transverse PILs become complete and uninterrupted. This, then, is the most likely configuration of the pes. PILs work!

Now all the PIL sets (except, again, digit 1, which just had to get out of the way) are able to operate at maximum efficiency. They are complete and uninterrupted, as in all other tetrapods.

BTW, Poposaurus is basal to Silesaurus in the large reptile tree, and Silesaurus does not preserve digit 1.

Figure 1. Poposauridae revised for 2014. Here they are derived from Turfanosuchus at the base of the Archosauria, just before crocs split from dinos.

Figure 1. Poposauridae revised for 2014. Here they are derived from Turfanosuchus at the base of the Archosauria, just before crocs split from dinos.

Three days ago we took our first look at the Farlow et al. 2014 paper.

References
Farlow JO, Schachner ER, Sarrazin JC, Klein H and Currie PJ 2014. Pedal Proportions of Poposaurus gracilis: Convergence and Divergence in the Feet of Archosaurs. The Anatomical Record. DOI 10.1002/ar.22863
Peters D 2000a. Description and Interpretation of Interphalangeal Lines in Tetrapods. Ichnos, 7: 11-41.
Peters D 2011. A Catalog of Pterosaur Pedes for Trackmaker Identification. Ichnos 18(2):114-141. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10420940.2011.573605

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