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Radiographic Morphology of the Pelvic Limb of Falconiformes and Its Taxonomic Implications

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

Radiography of the pelvic limb of birds of prey revealed that there is a taxonomically stable set of morphological features that differentiates hawks from falcons. The morphological features investigated in this study could be related to different forces that falcons and hawks place upon their pelvic limb whilst killing their prey. Although some of these features have been described before, none have been tabulated for a number of different species and so their significance has not been realised. Five ossifications in soft tissues were seen in the pelvic limbs of falcons (Falco spp.) and not in hawks (Accipitridae). These were: an ossification in the medial head of m. flexor hallucis longus; an ossification of part of the tibial cartilage; an ossification in the medial ligament of the tibial cartilage; intratendinous ossifications in mm. flexor hallucis longus and flexor digitorum longus; and a sesamoid at the metatarsophalangeal junction involved in restraining the digital flexor tendons that supply digit II. Hawks had a smaller medial hypotarsal crest than falcons, a sesamoid in ansa iliofibularis, and also a fused or immobile first phalangeal joint in digit II. Further material was used to investigate the differences within the family Falconidae. A comparison was made between radiographs of live anaesthetised Falco spp. and other the other falconids (Polyborinae, Micrastur-, Herpetothere.s, Microhierax, and Polihierax) that were available only as museum specimens: skeletal material, skins, and whole birds preserved in spirit (alcohol). The results showed that radiography can provide significant morphological data without damage to the specimen.

Affiliations: 1: 30 Crab Lane, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HGI 3BE, United Kingdom


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