Uncinate processes of ribs

This stylised bird skeleton highlights the uncinate processes

The uncinate processes of the ribs are extensions of bone that project caudally from the vertical segment of each rib. (Uncinate means hooked from Latin uncinatus, from uncinus, barb, from uncus, hook.) They are found in birds (except for screamers), reptiles, and the early amphibian Ichthyostega.[1]

These processes can serve to attach scapula muscles,[1] and help to strengthen the rib cage overlapping with the rib behind them.[1][2] They are also shown to have a role in respiration by increasing the effectiveness of muscles involved in inspiration including the appendicocostal muscles.[3] The processes are short in walking birds and long in diving species and are of intermediate length in non-specialist birds.[4] The screamers (Anhimidae) are unique in lacking this process.[5] The process has also been noted in some Enantiornithines.[6] Although bony uncinate processes are unique to birds, cartilaginous uncinate processes are present in crocodiles. The uncinate process has also been reported in Sphenodon, Caudipteryx, oviraptorids, Confuciusornis and Chaoyangia however it does not occur in Archaeopteryx.[6]


  1. 1 2 3 Kardong, Kenneth V. (1995). Vertebrates: comparative anatomy, function, evolution. McGraw-Hill. pp. 55, 57. ISBN 0-697-21991-7.
  2. Bonney, Rick; Rohrbaugh, Jr., Ronald (2004). Handbook of Bird Biology (Second ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-938027-62-X.
  3. Codd, J. R., D. F. Boggs, S. F. Perry, and D. R. Carrier. 2005. Activity of three muscles associated with the uncinate processes of the giant Canada Goose Branta canadensis maximus. Journal of Experimental Biology 208:849-857. Full text
  4. Tickle, Peter G. , A. Roland Ennos, Laura E. Lennox, Steven F. Perry and Jonathan R. Codd 2007. Functional significance of the uncinate processes in birds. Journal of Experimental Biology 210:3955-3961 Abstract
  5. Fowler ME & Cubas ZS (2001). Biology, medicine, and surgery of South American wild animals. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 103.
  6. 1 2 Fucheng, Zhang, Zhou Zhoghe, Hou Lianhai & Gu Gang 2001. Early diversification of birds:Evidence from a new opposite bird. Chinese Science Bulletin. 46(11):945-949 PDF
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