Modeling intervertebral articulation: The rotule à doigt mechanical joint (RAD) in birds and mammals - MNHN - Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle Access content directly
Journal Articles Journal of Anatomy Year : 2021

Modeling intervertebral articulation: The rotule à doigt mechanical joint (RAD) in birds and mammals

Modélisation de l'articulation intervertébrale comme une rotule à doigt chez les oiseaux et les mammifères


The vertebrate skeleton is composed of articulated bones. Most of the articulations are classically described using mechanical joints, except the intervertebral joint. The aim of this study was to identify a joint model with the same mechanical features as the cervical joints. On the neck vertebrae, six articular surfaces participate in the joint: the cranial part of the centrum and the facets of the two prezygapophyses of a vertebra articulate on the caudal part of the centrum and the two articular facets of the postzygapophyses of the previous vertebra. We used the intervertebral joints of the birds neck to identify the mechanical joint representing intervertebral linkage. This link was described in the literature as a joint allowing two or three rotations and no translation. These features correspond to the rotule à doigt (RAD) joint, a ball and socket joint with a pin. We compared the RAD joint to the postaxial intervertebral joints of the avian neck and found it a suitable model to determine the geometrical features involved in the joint mobility. The difference in the angles of virtual axes linking the geometrical center of the centrum to the zygapophysis surfaces determines the mean dorsoventral flexion of the joint. It also helps to limit longitudinal rotation. The orientation of the zygapophysis surfaces determines the range of motion in both dorsoventral and lateral flexion. The overall system prevents dislocation. The model was validated on 13 joints of a vulture neck and 11 joints of a swallow neck and on one joint (C6–C7) in each of three mammal species: the wolf (Canis lupus), mole (Talpa europaea), and human (Homo sapiens). The RAD mechanical joint was found in all vertebral articulations. This validation of the model on different species shows that the RAD intervertebral joint model makes it possible to extract the parameters that guide and limit the mobility of the cervical spine from the complex shape of the vertebrae and to compare them in interspecific studies.
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Dates and versions

mnhn-03445533 , version 1 (24-11-2021)



Anick Abourachid, Benoît Gagnier, Matthieu Furet, Raphael Cornette, Arnaud Delapre, et al.. Modeling intervertebral articulation: The rotule à doigt mechanical joint (RAD) in birds and mammals. Journal of Anatomy, 2021, 239 (6), pp.1287-1299. ⟨10.1111/joa.13517⟩. ⟨mnhn-03445533⟩
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