Project E4: Vertebral Biomechanics and Evolution
|Title||The biomechanical design and morphofunctional evolution of presacral vertebrae in Sauropodomorpha deduced from shape analysis and FESS|
|Principal Investigators||Dr. Oliver Rauhut, Prof. Dr.-Ing Ulrich Witzel, Katrin Moser|
The size of the largest sauropod dinosaurs is close to the theoretical size limit for terrestrial vertebrates. To understand body design of sauropod, a detailed knowledge of their carrying system is essential. Apart from the limbs and girdles, which were the subject of a previous study (Project C4) in the framework of the Research Unit 533, understanding of the structure and mechanics of the vertebral column are essential. Palaeontologists have long marvelled over the complex structure of presacral vertebrae of sauropods, but no detailed biomechanical study of these structures has been carried out so far. Furthermore, the evolution of this anatomical complex can be studied in the framework of recent phylogenetic analyses of sauropodomorph dinosaurs, leading to a better understanding of the evolution of gigantism in sauropods.
Thus, in this project the structure of the presacral vertebrae will be investigated using a combination of statistical comparative and biomechanical techniques, such as shape analysis and Finite Element Structure Synthesis. This will allow a quantification of evolutionary changes in vertebral structure in sauropods and put these changes into a functional and biomechanical context. This, in turn, will lead to a better understanding of the functional and mechanical constraints that have shaped sauropod design.