Virtual Reconstructions of the Endocranial Cavity of Rhea americana (Aves, Palaeognathae): Postnatal Anatomical ChangesPicasso M.B.J. · Tambussi C.P. · Degrange F.J.
aDivisión Paleontología Vertebrados, Museo de La Plata, La Plata, bAgencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Técnica – Fondo para la Investigación Científica y Tecnológica, y cConsejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
We examined the external anatomy of the endocast of the Greater Rhea (Rhea americana, Palaeognathae), during 3 main stages of its postnatal life, and compared it with information available on other palaeognathous birds. Series of scans with spiral computed tomographies were obtained from 3 skulls of different ages (chick, juvenile and adult) of R. americana; digital 3-dimensional reconstruction was performed and brain volumes were calculated from the models obtained. Qualitative assessment of the brain anatomy of R. americana indicates a conical and ventrally located bulbus olfactorius, laterally expanded hemispherium telencephali, well-developed eminentia sagittalis, and conspicuous cerebellum and tectum mesencephali. Anatomy of the chick brain was markedly different: less lateral expansion of the hemispherium telencephali, and lesser development of the eminentia sagittalis and auricula cerebelli. Little change between chicks and adults was observed in some brain regions such as the tectum mesencephali, while the eminentia sagittalis showed great increase in size. The large size of the eminentia sagittalis coupled with its increasing development during ontogeny could reflect its importance for visual processing functions and the way these improve during growth. Finally, the brain of R. americana is similar to that of Struthio and Dromaius, but differs from that of the Tinamidae and of Apteryx, allowing recognition of 3 distinct brain morphologies among the Palaeognathae.
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