Several different types of cranial kinesis are present within modern birds, enabling them to move (part of) the upper bill relative to the braincase. This movement of the upper bill results from movement of the quadrate and the pterygoid-palatine complex (PPC). The taxon Palaeognathae is characterised by a very distinct PPC and a special type of cranial kinesis (central kinesis) that is very different from that found in the Neognathae. This has led some authors to hypothesise that there is a functional relationship between the morphology of the PPC and the type of cranial kinesis. This hypothesis is tested here by analysing the movement pattern of both the upper bill and the PPC in birds with three different types of cranial kinesis: prokinesis, distal rhynchokinesis and central rhynchokinesis. Movement patterns were determined using a Roentgen stereophotogrammetry method, which made it possible to detect very small displacements (0.5 mm) of bony elements in three dimensions, while the jaw muscles and ligaments remained intact. We found that in all types of kinesis investigated the movements of the quadrate, jugal bars and PPC are similar. Movement of the quadrate is transferred to the upper beak by the jugal bar and the PPC, which moves almost exclusively forwards and backwards, thereby elevating or depressing the upper bill. The differences between the types of kinesis lie only in the position of the point of rotation. These findings indicate that there is no correlation between the specific morphology of the PPC and the type of cranial kinesis. Several other factors, including the external forces applied during food acquisition, may influence the morphology of the PPC. Differences in PPC morphology therefore appear to be the result of different functional demands acting on the system simultaneously but with different strengths, depending on the species.

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