• trabecular microarchitecture;
  • spontaneous vertebral fracture;
  • bone volume fraction;
  • degree of anisotropy;
  • microcomputed tomography


Spontaneous vertebral fractures are a common occurrence in modern humans, yet these fractures are not documented in other hominoids. Differences in vertebral bone strength between humans and apes associated with trabecular bone microarchitecture may contribute to differences in fracture incidence. We used microcomputed tomography to examine trabecular bone microarchitecture in the T8 vertebra of extant young adult hominoids. Scaled volumes of interest from the anterior vertebral body were analyzed at a resolution of 46 μm, and bone volume fraction, trabecular thickness, trabecular number, trabecular separation, structure model index, and degree of anisotropy were compared among species. As body mass increased, so did trabecular thickness, but bone volume fraction, structure model index, and degree of anisotropy were independent of body mass. Bone volume fraction was not significantly different between the species. Degree of anisotropy was not significantly different among the species, suggesting similarity of loading patterns in the T8 vertebra due to similar anatomical and postural relationships within each species' spine. Degree of anisotropy was negatively correlated with bone volume fraction (r2 = 0.85, P < 0.05) in humans, whereas the apes demonstrated no such relationship. This suggested that less dense human trabecular bone was more preferentially aligned to habitual loading. Furthermore, we theorize that trabeculae in ape thoracic vertebrae would not be expected to become preferentially aligned if bone volume fraction was decreased. The differing relationship between bone volume fraction and degree of anisotropy in humans and apes may cause less dense human bone to be more fragile than less dense ape bone. Anat Rec, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.