Three-dimensional polygonal muscle modelling and line of action estimation in living and extinct taxa.
Biomechanical models and simulations of musculoskeletal function rely on accurate muscle parameters, such as muscle masses and lines of action, to estimate force production potential and moment arms. These parameters are often obtained through destructive techniques (i.e., dissection) in living taxa, frequently hindering the measurement of other relevant parameters from a single individual, thus making it necessary to combine multiple specimens and/or sources. Estimating these parameters in extinct taxa is even more challenging as soft tissues are rarely preserved in fossil taxa and the skeletal remains contain relatively little information about the size or exact path of a muscle. Here we describe a new protocol that facilitates the estimation of missing muscle parameters (i.e., muscle volume and path) for extant and extinct taxa. We created three-dimensional volumetric reconstructions for the hindlimb muscles of the extant Nile crocodile and extinct stem-archosaur Euparkeria, and the shoulder muscles of an extant gorilla to demonstrate the broad applicability of this methodology across living and extinct animal clades. Additionally, our method can be combined with surface geometry data digitally captured during dissection, thus facilitating downstream analyses. We evaluated the estimated muscle masses against physical measurements to test their accuracy in estimating missing parameters. Our estimated muscle masses generally compare favourably with segmented iodine-stained muscles and almost all fall within or close to the range of observed muscle masses, thus indicating that our estimates are reliable and the resulting lines of action calculated sufficiently accurately. This method has potential for diverse applications in evolutionary morphology and biomechanics.
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