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

  title={The opisthotonic posture of vertebrate skeletons: postmortem contraction or death throes?},
  author={Cynthia Marshall Faux and Kevin Padian},
Abstract An extreme, dorsally hyperextended posture of the spine (opisthotonus), characterized by the skull and neck recurved over the back, and with strong extension of the tail, is observed in many well-preserved, articulated amniote skeletons (birds and other dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and at least placental mammals). Postmortem water transport may explain some cases of spinal curvature in fossil tetrapods, but we show how these can be distinguished from causes of the opisthotonic posture, which… 

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.

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)

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

Ontogenetic similarities between giraffe and sauropod neck osteological mobility

The functional morphology of sauropod dinosaur long necks has been studied extensively, with virtual approaches yielding results that are difficult to obtain with actual fossils, due to their extreme

Osteology of Eoraptor lunensis (Dinosauria, Sauropodomorpha)

ABSTRACT We describe the basal sauropodomorph Eoraptor lunensis, based on the nearly complete holotypic skeleton and referred specimens, all of which were discovered in the Cancha de Bochas Member

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.

Comparative anatomy and osteohistology of hyperelongate neural spines in the sphenacodontids Sphenacodon and Dimetrodon (Amniota: Synapsida)

Observed histovariability appears to record the transition from the proximal to the distally protruding portion of the spine, and independent pathological evidence support the existence of a short dorsal crest in Sphenacodon and possibly other basal sphenacodontids.

Restoring Maximum Vertical Browsing Reach in Sauropod Dinosaurs

  • G. Paul
  • Environmental Science
    Anatomical record
  • 2017
This hypothesis is supported by the dorsally extended articulation of the only known co‐fused sauropod cervicals and is more readily restorable and biologically informative for long necked herbivores.

The Extent of the Pterosaur Flight Membrane

It is strongly suggested that the trailing edge of the wing extended down to the lower leg or ankle in all specimens where the brachiopatagium is completely preserved, and is thus likely to have been universally present throughout the Pterosauria.

Description and ontogenetic assessment of a new Jehol microraptorine

It is confirmed that this microraptorine theropod was around a single year in age and still growing at death, but that the growth had slowed, which indicates that presence of a variety of feather types, including filamentous feathers, pennaceous primaries, and long rectrices, likely used for ornamentation, preceded skeletal maturity and full adult size.


Abstract A sub-adult Allosaurus fragilis (MOR 693) was discovered in 1991 in the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of Big Horn County, Wyoming. Examination of the specimen reveals pathological

Morphology, histochemistry, and function of epaxial cervical musculature in the horse (Equus caballus)

The semispinalis capitis and splenius muscles of the horse were analyzed for gross morphology, microarchitecture, fiber length, and fiber type, implying diverse functional roles in the animal's behavior.

Longbone histology of the Tendaguru sauropods: implications for growth and biology

  • P. Sander
  • Geography, Environmental Science
  • 2000
A new sampling technique for fossil bone (coring with a 5/8” bit) was used to sample longbones of all four sauropod genera from the Upper Jurassic Tendaguru beds of Tanzania for paleohistological study, showing a common growth pattern in which growth is determinate but sexual maturity is achieved well before maximum size is reached.

Disarticulation and scattering of mammal skeletons

I present a statistical technique for determining the disarticulation sequence of vertebrate skeletons based on the relative numbers of different intact joints in an assemblage of bones. For remains

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.

Paleopathological analysis of a sub-adult Allosaurus fragilis (MOR 693) from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation with multiple injuries and infections

A sub-adult Allosaurus fragilis (Museum of the Rockies specimen number 693 or MOR 693; "Big Al") with nineteen abnormal skeletal elements was discovered in 1991 in the Upper Jurassic Morrison

Atlantoaxial Instability in a White-tailed Deer Fawn (Odocoileus virginianus)

  • M. Palmer
  • Medicine
    Journal of wildlife diseases
  • 2002
Postmortem examination revealed atlantoaxial instability with ventral deviation of the axis due to malformation of the caudal atlas and cranial axis in an 8 mo old, male white-tailed deer.

The skeletal taphonomy of Archaeopteryx: a quantitative approach

A new technique is described for taphonomic investigation of fossil vertebrates with a high degree of skeletal articulation and completeness, and applied to analysis of the taphonomy of

Respiratory muscle activity during asphyxic apnoea and opisthotonus in the rabbit.

Palaeohistology of the bones of pterosaurs (Reptilia: Archosauria): anatomy, ontogeny, and biomechanical implications

The distribution and ontogenetic features of pterosaur bone tissues, when combined with other evidence, suggest generally high growth rates, high metabolic levels, altricial birth, and extended parental care.