All / Avian / Biology / Ethology / Evolution / Questions & Answers / Veterinary

Q: Do penguins and other birds have knees?

A:

Yes. But, as in the case of most other birds, the knees cannot be seen under their feathers.

Their legs begin to come out from the body after the knee joint.

Like humans, the upper leg consists of the femur (thigh bone). At the knee joint, the femur connects to the tibiotarsus, (shin) and fibula (side of lower leg). The tarsometatarsus (ankle) connects above to where phalanges (finger/foot digits) make up the toes.

However… most people believe that the backward bending leg joint that you see in bird’s legs when they are walking ( see blow) is the equivalent of our knee, which has led t the common misconception that their knees bend backwards:

In fact, the backward bending leg joint that you see in bird’s legs when they are walking is not their knee, but actually the equivalent of our ankle (aka the tarsus, or their tarsometatarsus)!

A bird’s foot is the equivalent of the tip/digits of our toe (aka our phalanges)…Which means the part of a bird’s leg that looks like it’s shin (aka Tibiotarsus) is actually the equivalent of the arch of our foot!

(Their wings are also the equivalent of our arms and hands, minus a few wingers and bone marrow).

Here are two images of a bird and human skeleton side by side to give you a more clear idea:

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