Quadrate bone

A schematic of an anapsid skull showing the location of major dermal bones of the upper skull, including the quadrate bone (q).

The quadrate bone is a skull bone in most tetrapods, including amphibians, sauropsids (reptiles, birds), and early synapsids.

In most tetrapods, the quadrate bone connects to the quadratojugal and squamosal bones in the skull, and forms upper part of the jaw joint. The lower jaw articulates at the articular bone, located at the rear end of the lower jaw. The quadrate bone forms the lower jaw articulation in all classes except mammals.

Evolutionarily, it is derived from the hindmost part of the primitive cartilaginous upper jaw.

Function in reptiles

An exploded python skull with disarticulated upper and lower jaws. The quadrate bone (c) is particularly elongated in snakes, to facilitate cranial kinesis. Courtesy of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, Division of Vertebrate Zoology, Yale University.

In certain extinct reptiles, the variation and stability of the morphology of the quadrate bone has helped paleontologists in the species-level taxonomy and identification of mosasaur squamates and spinosaurine dinosaurs.

In some lizards and dinosaurs, the quadrate is articulated at both ends and movable.[citation needed] In snakes, the quadrate bone has become elongated and very mobile, and contributes greatly to their ability to swallow very large prey items.

Function in mammals

In mammals, the articular and quadrate bones have migrated to the middle ear and are known as the malleus and incus. Along with the stapes, which is homologous to some reptilian and amphibian columellae, these are known as the ossicles and are a defining characteristic of mammals.


In pig embryos, the mandible ossifies on the side of Meckel's cartilage, while the posterior part of that cartilage is ossified into the incus. In later development, this portion detaches from the rest of the cartilage and migrates into the middle ear.

This page was last updated at 2023-11-03 18:17 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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