Morphology and Histology of Lattice-like Ossified Epaxial Tendons in Psittacosaurus (Dinosauria: Ceratopsia)
Epaxial tendons play an important role in the study of the musculoskeletal system and locomotory style of dinosaurs. Although the ossified epaxial tendon lattice is fairly well known in Iguanodontoidea, only recently has knowledge of this complex been extended to ceratopsians. This study concerns the gross morphology and microstructure of the tendon lattice in Psittacosaurus, a basal ceratopsian. As in the neoceratopsian Chasmosaurus, the ossified tendons of Psittacosaurus form a three-layered, lattice-like structure. The microstructure of the tendons in large psittacosaur individuals retains an early stage of ossification, as in juvenile birds and nestling hadrosaurs, suggesting a slow developmental rate of ossification of the tendons in psittacosaur ontogeny. Comparative study indicates that a lattice-like arrangement of three-layered epaxial tendons is widely distributed in Cerapoda. This pattern also extends to Ankylosauria, implying a similar pattern of the epaxial muscles through the ornithischian clade. In addition, comparison with crocodiles implies that the different morphology of ossified tendons in dinosaurs may be associated with adaptive aspects of their paleobiology, not simply a side effect of skeletal ossification. In contrast to the short tendons in quadrupedal Chasmosaurus and Protoceratops, the elongated tendons in Psittacosaurus may be related to the bipedal locomotion characteristic of this taxon.