Complex overlapping joints between facial bones allowing limited anterior sliding movements of the snout in diplodocid sauropods. (American Museum novitates, no. 3911)

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American Museum of Natural History.
Diplodocid sauropods had a unique skull morphology, with posteriorly retracted nares, an elongated snout, and anteriorly restricted, peglike teeth. Because of the lack of extant analogs in skull structure and tooth morphology, understanding their feeding strategy and diet has been difficult. Furthermore, the general rarity of sauropod skulls and the fragility of their facial elements resulted in a restricted knowledge of cranial anatomy, in particular regarding the internal surface of the facial skull. Here, we describe in detail a well-preserved diplodocid skull visible in medial view. Diagnostic features recognized in other skulls observable in lateral view, such as the extended contribution of the jugal to the antorbital fenestra, are obliterated in medial view due to extensive overlapping joints between the maxilla, jugal, quadratojugal, and the lacrimal. These overlapping joints permitted limited anterior sliding movement of the snout, which likely served as a kind of "shock-absorbing" mechanism during feeding. Diplodocid skulls therefore seem to have evolved to alleviate stresses inflicted on the snout during backward movements of the head, as would be expected during branch-stripping or raking.
16 pages : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 26 cm.
Diplodocidae -- Anatomy., Facial bones., Joints., Skull -- Anatomy., Reptiles, Fossil -- Anatomy., Paleontology -- Jurassic., Wyoming., Morrison Formation