Re-evaluating Moodie’s Opisthotonic-Posture Hypothesis in Fossil Vertebrates Part I: Reptiles—the taphonomy of the bipedal dinosaurs Compsognathus longipes and Juravenator starki from the Solnhofen Archipelago (Jurassic, Germany)

  title={Re-evaluating Moodie’s Opisthotonic-Posture Hypothesis in Fossil Vertebrates Part I: Reptiles—the taphonomy of the bipedal dinosaurs Compsognathus longipes and Juravenator starki from the Solnhofen Archipelago (Jurassic, Germany)},
  author={Achim G. Reisdorf and Michael Wuttke},
  journal={Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments},
  • A. ReisdorfM. Wuttke
  • Published 8 February 2012
  • Geography, Environmental Science
  • Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments
More or less complete and articulated skeletons of fossil air-breathing vertebrates with a long neck and tail often exhibit a body posture in which the head and neck are recurved over the back of the animal. Additionally, the tail is typically drawn over the body, while the limbs have a rigid appearance. In palaeontological literature, this “opisthotonic posture” of such fossils still requires a causal interpretation in an etiological context. According to this hypothesis, there is a… 

Opisthotonic head displacement in the domestic chicken and its bearing on the ‘dead bird’ posture of non‐avialan dinosaurs

The findings show that the head remains freely mobile on the cervical column in all positions of displacement, and the cervical vertebrae can be grouped into three functional clusters (posterior, intermediate and anterior), based on their patterns of intervertebral excursion along the sagittal displacement arc.

A partial skeleton of the eomyid Eomyodon volkeri Engesser, 1987 (Mammalia: Rodentia) from the late Oligocene Fossil-Lagerstätte of Enspel, Germany

A partial skeleton of a young adult Eomyodon volkeri from the late Oligocene of Enspel (MP 28) represents the first of this genus, which was previously known only from isolated teeth at this

The evolution of the feather: scales on the tail of Sinosauropteryx and an interpretation of the dinosaur’s opisthotonic posture

The sequence of events in which this apparently occurred also suggests that the development of opisthotonus may have occurred post mortem rather than perimortem in this specimen, addressing a somewhat controversial question.

A new basal ornithopod dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of China

It is tentatively hypothesized that both Changmiania liaoningensis specimens were suddenly entrapped in a collapsed underground burrow while they were resting, which would explain their perfect lifelike postures and the complete absence of weathering and scavenging traces.

A Second Soundly Sleeping Dragon: New Anatomical Details of the Chinese Troodontid Mei long with Implications for Phylogeny and Taphonomy

A second nearly complete, articulated specimen of the basal troodontid Mei long is reported from the Early Cretaceous lower Yixian Formation, Liaoning Province, China, strengthening the hypothesis that both specimens were preserved in a stereotypical life position.

Taphonomic Study of a Modern Baboon Sleeping Site at Misgrot, South Africa: Implications for Large-Bodied Primate Taphonomy in Karstic Deposits

Primate taphonomy in cave deposits is complex, and the taphonomic signatures of different accumulation scenarios present some degree of equifinality, rendering their identification in the fossil

Articulated bone sets of manus and pedes of Camarasaurus (Sauropoda, Dinosauria)

Skeletons of sauropods are rarely found with fore and hind feet, and until now, only one specimen of this clade has been reported with all four autopodia preserved complete and articulated. This

The oldest Archaeopteryx (Theropoda: Avialiae): a new specimen from the Kimmeridgian/Tithonian boundary of Schamhaupten, Bavaria

The iconic primeval bird Archaeopteryx was so far mainly known from the Altmühltal Formation of Bavaria, southern Germany, with one specimen having been found in the overlying Mörnsheim Formation, but a new specimen from the earliest Tithonian Painten Formation of Schamhaupten (Bavaria) represents the so far oldest representative of the genus.

The skeletal taphonomy of anurans from the Eocene Geiseltal Konservat‐Lagerstätte, Germany: insights into the controls on fossil anuran preservation

The Geiseltal biota is an Eocene lacustrine Konservat‐Lagerstätte in central Germany. Despite its rich fauna and flora (over 50 000 fossil vertebrates, insects and other invertebrates, plants and

Neck mobility in the Jurassic plesiosaur Cryptoclidus eurymerus: finite element analysis as a new approach to understanding the cervical skeleton in fossil vertebrates

It is posited that the long neck served in hydrodynamic and visual camouflage, hiding the bulk of the body from the small but abundant prey, such as schooling fish and squid, which may have been advantageous in withstanding strong hydrod dynamic forces acting on the neck during predatory strikes.



The opisthotonic posture of vertebrate skeletons: postmortem contraction or death throes?

Accepting the actual causes of the opisthotonic posture as perimortem and not postmortem provides insights into the causes of death of fossilized specimens, and also revises interpretations of paleoenvironmental conditions of many fossil deposits.

Limb posture in early mammals: Sprawling or parasagittal

It is argued that early mammals (except for boreosphenidans) had sprawling limb posture and venomous spur; acquisition of the parasagittal stance was apparently characteristic only of boreospenidans, in which the spur has not been found.


The carcass of the new specimen was embedded in finely laminated limestones and shows little sign of disintegration or scavenging, suggesting hostile bottom conditions with very low water energy during deposition, and agrees with recent published models for the origin of the lithographic limestones of southern Germany.

Were non-avian theropod dinosaurs able to swim? Supportive evidence from an Early Cretaceous trackway, Cameros Basin (La Rioja, Spain)

A fundamental question remaining unanswered in dinosaur behavior is whether they had the ability to swim. We report the discovery of an exceptional swimming dinosaur trackway, with 12 consecutive

Postcranial Axial Skeleton of Simosuchus clarki (Crocodyliformes: Notosuchia) from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar

Most aspects of the vertebral morphology of Simosuchus are consistent with those generally observed within Crocodylomorpha, however, the low number of caudal vertebrae indicates that the tail of SimOSuchus was remarkably short, shorter than in any other known croc Codylomorph.

The locomotion of Chamaeleo (Reptilia: Sauria) with particular reference to the forelimb

The substitution of girdle excursion for lateral undulation in Chamaeleo provides for more excursion in the proximal limb, requires less excursion of the trunk relative to the perch and requires less stereotypy in limb position.

Anatomy of Juravenator starki (Theropoda: Coelurosauria) from the Late Jurassic of Germany

: We provide a detailed study of the morphology of the holotype of Juravenator starki from the Late Jurassic of the Solnhofen area of southern Germany. The incompletely ossified surface of multiple

Studies in Paleopathology. III. Opisthotonus and Allied Phenomena Among Fossil Vertebrates

A student of the fossil vertebrates is almost sure to be impressed with the frequency of the peculiar curve to the backwardly bent neck and the rigid appearance of the limbs if these members are preserved in anything like the position assumed by the animal at death.


This study proposes that C. corallestris is a subjective junior synonym of Compsognathus longipes from Bavaria, which is nearly identical to those of the French specimen, and the differences are related to ontogenetic or within-species variation or are caused by preservational factors.