Research Article: Cranial Osteology of Meiglyptini (Aves: Piciformes: Picidae)

Date Published: January 22, 2012

Publisher: Hindawi Publishing Corporation

Author(s): Reginaldo José Donatelli.


The Meiglyptini comprise eight species grouped into three genera: Meiglyptes and Mulleripicus, with three species each, and Hemicircus, with two species. The aim of the present study was to describe the cranial osteology of six species and three genera of Meiglyptini and to compare them to each other, as well as with other species of woodpeckers and other bird groups. The cranial osteology varied among the investigated species, but the most markedly distinct characteristics were: (1) a frontal overhang is only observed in the middle portion of the frontale of H. concretus; (2) the Proc. zygomaticus and suprameaticus are thick and long in species of the genus Mulleripicus, but short in other species; (3) the Pes pterygoidei is relatively larger in species of the genus Mulleripicus, while it is narrow, thin and relatively smaller in species of the genus Meiglyptes and indistinct in H. concretus; (4) the bony projection of the ectethmoidale is relatively short and thin in species of Mulleripicus and more developed in H. concretus. It appears that the greatest structural complexity of the cranial osteology is associated with the birds’ diet, with the frugivorous H. concretus being markedly different from the insectivorous species.

Partial Text

Woodpeckers have been investigated scientifically for over a century. These birds are notable for their colour, size, foraging mode, nest-building behaviour, instrumental signals, and the way they climb vertical surfaces. Interestingly, many of the behavioural patterns of woodpeckers are closely related to their anatomical features. Thus, these aspects cannot be dissociated in a study [1].

In this study, I described the osteological characters of the skull of 15 specimens of Meiglyptini belonging to three genera and six species. The specimens are housed at the National Museum of Natural History (USNM), Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA, the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense (MZB), Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), and the Natural History Museum of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Indonesia.

The osteology of the skull and mandible was studied comparatively, described, and drawn using a Zeiss Stemi SV11 stereomicroscope ( with magnification ranging from 4 to 66X. M. pulverulentus was used as a reference for comparison of structures. All drawings are accompanied by legends to facilitate the observation of structures.

This analysis of the cranial osteological structures of the Meiglyptini elucidated seven important mechanisms of operation of the jaw apparatus: (1) Ossa cranii: frontal overhang, the extension of the Os parietale versus the Os frontale, fossa temporalis, proc. suprameaticus, and proc. zygomaticus; (2) Ossa faciei: anterior expansion of the Os pterygoideum, Pes pterygoidei, fossa choanalis, fossa ventralis palatine, bony projection of the Os ectethmoidale, and condylus medialis quadrati; (3) Ossa mandibulae: pars symphisialis mandibulae.