Haemal arch

Haemal arch of Diplodocus

A haemal arch (also spelled hemal arch), also known as a chevron, is a bony arch on the ventral side of a tail vertebra of a vertebrate. The canal formed by the space between the arch and the vertebral body is the haemal canal. A spinous ventral process emerging from the haemal arch is referred to as the haemal spine.

Caudal vertebrae of Ichthyovenator laosensis, showing haemal arches below tail.

Blood vessels to and from the tail run through the arch. In reptiles, the caudofemoralis longus muscle, one of the main muscles involved in locomotion, attaches to the lateral sides of the haemal arches.[1]

In 1956, Alfred Sherwood Romer hypothesized that the position of the first haemal arch was sexually dimorphic in crocodilians and dinosaurs.[2] However, subsequent research established that the size and position of the first haemal arch was not sexually dimorphic in crocodilians and found no evidence of significant variation in tyrannosaurid dinosaurs, indicating that haemal arches could not be used to distinguish between sexes after all.[3]

Haemal arches play an important role in the taxonomy of sauropod dinosaurs, as sauropods exhibit a wide range of morphologies of the haemal arches.[1] In 1878, Othniel Marsh named the sauropod Diplodocus after the distinctive shape of its haemal arches, which were forked to have both an anterior and posterior process.[4] Though once thought to be a specialized characteristic of Diplodocus and its close relatives, forked chevrons are now known to have been widespread among sauropod dinosaurs, although titanosauriform sauropods returned to the unforked condition.[5]


  1. ^ a b Otero, Alejandro; Gallina, Pablo Ariel; Canale, Juan Ignacio; Haluza, Alejandro (2011-10-31). "Sauropod haemal arches: morphotypes, new classification and phylogenetic aspects". Historical Biology: 1–14. doi:10.1080/08912963.2011.618269. ISSN 1029-2381. Retrieved 2017-03-07. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Romer, Alfred Sherwood (1956). The Osteology of the Reptiles. University of Chicago Press.
  3. ^ Erickson, Gregory M.; Lappin, A. Kristopher; Larson, Peter (2005-11-20). "Androgynous rex – The utility of chevrons for determining the sex of crocodilians and non-avian dinosaurs". Zoology. 108 (4): 277–286. doi:10.1016/j.zool.2005.08.001. ISSN 0944-2006. Retrieved 2020-08-20. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Marsh, O. C. (1878). "Principal characters of American Jurassic dinosaurs". American Journal of Science. 3. 16: 411–416.
  5. ^ Upchurch, Paul; Barrett, Paul M.; Dodson, Peter (2004). "Sauropoda". In Weishampel, David B.; Dodson, Peter; Osmólska, Halszka (eds.). The Dinosauria (2 ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 259–322. ISBN 0-520-24209-2.

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