Article: Functional aspects of the postcranial anatomy of the Permian dicynodont Diictodon and their ecological implications
The postcranial skeleton of the Permian dicynodont Diictodon is described, major skeletal muscles restored and functional aspects of the skeleton analyzed. The humerus was caudolaterally oriented and articulated in a near sagittal plane. This reduced the transverse component of thrust during locomotion. Throughout the stride, the femur, which is relatively longer than the humerus, was held in a parasagittal position. Diictodon probably had a hindlimb gait similar to the high walk of crocodilians. Comparisons between several dicynodont genera, including Diictodon, reveal considerable variation in the limb orientations, articulations, posture and gait among these taxa. Expansion of the preacetabular iliac process and the overall iliac length with respect to its height among these dicynodonts may be correlated with the increase in the number of the sacral vertebrae. Diictodon does not show the cranial and forelimb modifications suitable for digging as seen in Cistecephalus, Kawingasaurus and extant burrowers such as a broad skull, rounded occiput for considerable neck musculature, a robust humerus and a prominent olecranon process. However, a cylindrical body, short limbs with well-developed limb elevators and depressors and a long wide manus with long, blunt claws probably helped in digging. In addition, the hindlimb with well-developed retractors and short, blunt claws participated in soil removal. The caudolaterally oriented humerus and a laterally flexible vertebral column facilitated movement in the narrow confines of the burrows. Forelimb articulation and morphology indicate that its method of digging was probably rotation-thrust, where humeral excursion and not forearm extension played a dominant role. The close associations of articulated paired skeletons of adult individuals suggest that Diictodon was gregarious. A large number of unconnected burrow-casts in a small area of about 500 m2, indicates that although the animals lived close together, they did not share a single large communal structure.