The synsacrum is a skeletal structure of birds and other dinosaurs, in which the sacrum is extended by incorporation of additional fused or partially fused caudal or lumbar vertebrae. The innominate bones are fused with the synsacrum to a greater or lesser extent, according to species, forming an avian pelvis. This forms a more extensive rigid structure than the pelvis of a mammal, fulfilling requirements for flight, locomotion and respiration. Posterior to the synsacrum there are a few free caudal vertebrae, the last of which is the pygostyle to which the long, stiff tail feathers are attached. The central section of the synsacrum is swollen to accommodate the glycogen body, an organ whose function is as yet unclear but which may be associated with balance.

In terms of external morphology, the synsacrum corresponds to the rump.

This stylised bird skeleton highlights the synsacrum
Synsacrum of an unidentified bird

Ankylosauridae () are a family of the armored dinosaurs within Ankylosauria, and sister group to Nodosauridae. Ankylosaurids appeared 122 million years ago and went extinct 66 million years ago during the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. These animals were mainly herbivorous and were obligate quadrupeds, with leaf-shaped teeth and robust, scute-covered bodies. Ankylosaurids possess a distinctly domed and short snout, wedge-shaped osteoderms on their skull, scutes along their torso, and a tail club.Ankylosauridae is exclusively known from the northern hemisphere, with specimens found in western North America, Europe, and East Asia. The first discoveries within this family were of the genus Ankylosaurus, by Peter Kaiser and Barnum Brown in Montana in 1906. Brown went on to name Ankylosauridae and the subfamily Ankylosaurinae in 1908.


The Anurognathidae were a family of small pterosaurs, with short or absent tails, that lived in Europe, Asia, and possibly North America during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Five genera are known: Anurognathus, from the Late Jurassic of Germany; Jeholopterus, from the Middle to Late Jurassic of China; Dendrorhynchoides, from the Middle Jurassic of China; Batrachognathus, from the Late Jurassic of Kazakhstan; and Vesperopterylus, from the Early Cretaceous of China. Bennett (2007) claimed that the holotype of Mesadactylus, BYU 2024, a synsacrum, belonged to an anurognathid. Mesadactylus is from the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation of the United States. Indeterminate anurognathid remains have also been reported from the Middle Jurassic Bakhar Svita of Mongolia.


Apatornis is a genus of prehistoric birds endemic to North America during the late Cretaceous. It currently contains a single species, Apatornis celer, which lived around the Santonian-Campanian boundary, dated to about 83.5 million years ago. The remains of this species were found in the Smoky Hill Chalk of the Niobrara Formation in Kansas, United States. It is known from a single fossil specimen: a synsacrum, the fused series of vertebrae over the hips.

While the known fossil remains are very incomplete, enough has been found to reasonably estimate that the body length of this bird was between 7–8 inches (18–20 cm).The type specimen of A. celer, YPM 1451, was reportedly discovered by Othniel Charles Marsh in October 1872 at Butte Creek in Logan County, Kansas. This location is now recognized as falling between Marker Units 15 and 19 of the Smoky Hill Chalk geological formation. An additional, more complete specimen had also been referred to Apatornis celer by Marsh. This more complete specimen had historically been the one used almost exclusively to form the basis of what was known about Apatornis. However, Julia Clarke noted in 2004 that because the second specimen did not preserve any of the same bones as the first, the two could not be scientifically compared. Clarke therefore reclassified the second specimen as its own genus and species, Iaceornis marshi.

Bird anatomy

Bird anatomy, or the physiological structure of birds' bodies, shows many unique adaptations, mostly aiding flight. Birds have a light skeletal system and light but powerful musculature which, along with circulatory and respiratory systems capable of very high metabolic rates and oxygen supply, permit the bird to fly. The development of a beak has led to evolution of a specially adapted digestive system. These anatomical specializations have earned birds their own class in the vertebrate phylum.

Bird feet and legs

The anatomy of bird legs and feet is diverse, encompassing many accommodations to perform a wide variety of functions.Most birds are classified as digitigrade animals, meaning they walk on their toes, rather than the entire foot. Some of the lower bones of the foot (the distals and most of the metatarsal) are fused to form the tarsometatarsus – a third segment of the leg, specific to birds. The upper bones of the foot (proximals), in turn, are fused with the tibia to form the tibiotarsus, as over time the centralia disappeared. The fibula also reduced.The legs are attached to a strong assembly consisting of the pelvic girdle extensively fused with the uniform spinal bone (also specific to birds) called the synsacrum, built from some of the fused bones.

Bissekty Formation

The Bissekty Formation (sometimes referred to as Bissekt) is situated in the Kyzyl Kum desert of Uzbekistan, and dates from the late Cretaceous Period. Laid down in the mid to late Turonian, it is dated to about 92-90 ma (million years ago).The Bissekty Formation is characterised by a mix of marine, brackish, freshwater, and terrestrial animal fossils. This stands in contrast the strictly marine fossils found in the underlying Dzheirantui Formation, and indicates that the Bissekty was formed during the regression of a saltwater sea. The coastline expanded inland again in the upper portion of the Bissekty, represented by a proportional increase of fully aquatic species, which were almost completely absent from the middle period of the formation. Semi-aquatic species remained abundant during this middle period, and the geology of the formations indicates that a braided river system took the place of the coastline. Eventually the area was again completely underwater, during the time period represented by the later Aitym Formation, which preserves coastal marine sediments.


Confuciusornis is a genus of primitive crow-sized birds from the Early Cretaceous Period of the Yixian and Jiufotang Formations of China, dating from 125 to 120 million years ago. Like modern birds, Confuciusornis had a toothless beak, but close relatives of modern birds such as Hesperornis and Ichthyornis were toothed, indicating that the loss of teeth occurred convergently in Confuciusornis and living birds. It is the oldest known bird to have a beak. It was named after the Chinese moral philosopher Confucius (551–479 BC). Confuciusornis is one of the most abundant vertebrates found in the Yixian Formation, and several hundred complete, articulated specimens have been found.


Europelta is an extinct genus of struthiosaurine nodosaurid dinosaur known from the Early Cretaceous (early Albian stage) lower Escucha Formation of Teruel Province, northeastern Spain. It contains a single species, Europelta carbonensis. It is known from two associated partial skeletons, and represents the most complete ankylosaur known from Europe.


Gargantuavis is a genus of extinct avialan stem-birds containing the single species Gargantuavis philoinos. G. philoinos lived during the late Cretaceous period in what is now southern France and northern Spain. Its fossils were discovered in several formations, which has been dated between 73.5 and 71.5 million years old. Gargantuavis is the largest known bird of the Mesozoic. The few known bones suggests a size between the cassowary and the ostrich. A study based on the circumference of the femur gives a mass of 140 kg (310 lb) like modern ostriches. Given its mass Gargantuavis was probably flightless. Its femur shows that it was a graviportal form rather than a cursorial bird. Many aspects of its biology are unknown including its diet (the skull has not yet been found). The ecological niche of Gargantuavis in its ecosystem is also mysterious because it coexisted with large predators like abelisaurids theropods. In any case, and contrary to older assumptions, Gargantuavis shows that the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs was not a necessary condition for the emergence of giant terrestrial birds. It is possible that some of the fossil eggs found in the region, usually attributed to non-avialan dinosaurs, actually belong to this bird.

Glycogen body

A glycogen body is an oval structure in the spinal cord of birds that is made of specialized cells that contain large amounts of glycogen. Housed within the synsacrum, the function of this structure is not known, but it does not seem to be related to the normal function of glycogen in animals, which is the storage of energy. Glycogen bodies may also have been present in some dinosaurs and are possibly the explanation for the structure that was once thought to be a "second brain" in animals such as Stegosaurus.


Mesadactylus ('mesa finger') is an extinct genus of pterosaur from the Kimmeridgian-Tithonian-age Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of Colorado, United States. The genus was named in 1989 by James Jensen and Kevin Padian. The type species is Mesadactylus ornithosphyos.


The Monofenestrata are an unranked group of pterosaurs that includes the family Wukongopteridae and the suborder Pterodactyloidea.The clade Monofenestrata was in 2009/2010 defined as the group consisting of Pterodactylus and all species sharing with Pterodactylus the synapomorphy, shared derived trait, of an external nostril confluent with the antorbital fenestra, the major skull opening on the side of the snout. The name is derived from Greek monos, "single", and Latin fenestra, "window". The concept was inspired by the discovery of Darwinopterus, a species combining a pterodactyloid-type skull with a more basal build of the remainder of the body. The Darwinoptera, a primitive subgroup of monofenestratans showing this transitional anatomy, was also named for Darwinopterus and defined as all descendants of its common ancestor with Pterorhynchus.The earliest known monofenestrate fossils have been found in the Stonesfield Slate formation of the United Kingdom, which dates to the Bathonian stage of the Middle Jurassic, dated to about 166 million years ago. Identified elements include cervical vertebrae, fourth metacarpals and a possible pterodactyloid synsacrum. Below is a cladogram showing the results of a phylogenetic analysis presented by Andres, Clark & Xu, 2014. This study found the two traditional groupings of ctenochasmatoids and kin as an early branching group, with all other pterodactyloids grouped into the Eupterodactyloidea.

Outline of dinosaurs

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to dinosaurs:

Dinosaurs – diverse group of animals of the clade and superorder Dinosauria. They were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period (about 230 million years ago) until the end of the Cretaceous (66 million years ago), when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of all non-avian dinosaurs at the close of the Mesozoic era. The fossil record indicates that birds evolved within theropod dinosaurs during the Jurassic period. Some of them survived the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, including the ancestors of all modern birds. Consequently, in modern classification systems, birds are considered dinosaurs—the only group which survived to the present day.


Pterodactyloidea (derived from the Greek words πτερόν (pterón, for usual ptéryx) "wing", and δάκτυλος (dáctylos) "finger" meaning "winged finger", "wing-finger" or "finger-wing") is one of the two traditional suborders of pterosaurs ("wing lizards"), and contains the most derived members of this group of flying reptiles. They appeared during the middle Jurassic Period, and differ from the basal (though paraphyletic) rhamphorhynchoids by their short tails and long wing metacarpals (hand bones). The most advanced forms also lack teeth, and by the late Cretaceous, all known pterodactyloids were toothless. Many species had well developed crests on the skull, a form of display taken to extremes in giant-crested forms like Nyctosaurus and Tupandactylus. Pterodactyloids (specifically the family Azhdarchidae) were the last surviving pterosaurs when the order became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period, together with the non-avian dinosaurs and most marine reptiles.

"Pterodactyl" is also a common term for pterodactyloid pterosaurs, though it can also be used to refer to Pterodactylus specifically or (incorrectly) to pterosaurs in general. Well-known examples of pterodactyloids include Pterodactylus, Dsungaripterus, Pteranodon, and Quetzalcoatlus.

In 2014, fossils from the Shishugou Formation of China were classified as the most basal pterodactyloid yet found, Kryptodrakon. At a minimum age of about 161 my, it is about 5 million years older than the oldest previously known confirmed specimens. Previously, a fossil jaw recovered from the Middle Jurassic Stonesfield Slate formation in the United Kingdom, was considered the oldest known. This specimen supposedly represented a member of the family Ctenochasmatidae, though further examination suggested it belonged to a teleosaurid stem-crocodilian instead of a pterosaur. O'Sullivan and Martill (2018) described a partial synsacrum from the Stonesfield Slate identified as possibly pterodactyloid based on the number of incorporated sacrals although they commented that the morphology was perhaps closer to that of wukongopterids. If correctly identified, it would be the oldest pterodactyloid fossil known.


Simurghia is a nyctosaurid pterosaur from the Ouled Abdoun Basin of Morocco and dates to the Maastrichtian of the Late Cretaceous. It was published in 2018 by Nicholas R. Longrich, David M. Martill, and Brian Andres along with another nyctosaur from the same basin, Barbaridactylus. It includes one species, Simurghia robusta.

Skeletal pneumaticity

Skeletal pneumaticity is the presence of air spaces within bones. It is generally produced during development by excavation of bone by pneumatic diverticula (air sacs) from an air-filled space, such as the lungs or nasal cavity. Pneumatization is highly variable between individuals, and bones not normally pneumatized can become pneumatized in pathological development.

Struthio linxiaensis

Struthio linxiaensis is an extinct species of ratite from the Miocene of China.


Tropeognathus is a genus of large pterosaurs from the early Cretaceous Period of South America. It was a member of the Ornithocheiridae (alternately Anhangueridae), a group of pterosaurs known for their keel-tipped snouts, and was closely related to species of the genus Anhanguera. The type and only species is Tropeognathus mesembrinus; a second species, Tropeognathus robustus, is now considered to belong to Anhanguera.

Vertebral column

The vertebral column, also known as the backbone or spine, is part of the axial skeleton. The vertebral column is the defining characteristic of a vertebrate in which the notochord (a flexible rod of uniform composition) found in all chordates has been replaced by a segmented series of bone: vertebrae separated by intervertebral discs. The vertebral column houses the spinal canal, a cavity that encloses and protects the spinal cord.

There are about 50,000 species of animals that have a vertebral column. The human vertebral column is one of the most-studied examples.

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