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Abstract

A tendon locking mechanism (TLM) in the digits of the feet has been described previously only in bats and birds. In bats, this mechanism typically consists of a patch of tuberculated fibrocartilage cells on the plantar surface of the proximal flexor tendons, and a corresponding plicated portion of the adjacent flexor tendon sheath. The two components mesh together like parts of a ratchet, locking the digit in a flexed position until the mechanism is disengaged. This system apparently allows bats to hang for long periods of time with reduced muscular activity. In this study, we document for the first time the presence of a similar tendon lock in dermopterans, an occurrence that provides additional support for the hypothesis that dermopterans and bats are sister taxa. The present work also includes observations on the morphology of the digital tendon system in chiropteran species not previously examined, including members of the Craseonycteridae, Mystacinidae and Kerivoulinae. Unlike other bats that have a TLM, Craseonycteris and Kerivoula have a plicated proximal tendon sheath but lack distinct tubercles on the flexor tendon. This condition may be related to small body size or may represent an evolutionary intermediate between the presence of a well-developed TLM and the complete absence of this structure. Phyllostomids apparently lack the ratchet-like TLM typical of other bats, instead exhibiting modifications of the tendon sheath that may contribute to its function as a friction lock. Consideration of the distribution of TLM structures in the context of previous phylogenetic hypotheses suggests that a ratchet-type tendon lock was lost and reexpressed at least once and perhaps several times within Microchiroptera. The friction lock is an autapomorphy of Phyllostomidae. © 1994 Plenum Publishing Corporation.

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Simmons, N. B., & Quinn, T. H. (1994). Evolution of the digital tendon locking mechanism in bats and dermopterans: A phylogenetic perspective. Journal of Mammalian Evolution, 2(4), 231–254. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01464276

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