The relationship between bone mechanical properties and ground reaction forces in normal and hypermuscular mice

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Abstract

Understanding the relationship between external load and bone morphology is critical for understanding adaptations to load in extant animals and inferring behavior in extinct forms. Yet, the relationship between bony anatomy and load is poorly understood, with empirical studies often producing conflicting results. It is widely assumed in many ecological and paleontological studies that bone size and strength reflect the forces experienced by the bone in vivo. This study examines that assumption by providing preliminary data on gait mechanics in a hypermuscular myostatin-deficient mouse model with highly mineralized and hypertrophied long bones. A small sample of hypermuscular and wild-type mice was video recorded while walking freely across a force platform. Temporal gait parameters, peak vertical and transverse (mediolateral) ground reaction forces (GRFs), vertical impulse, and loading rates were measured. The only gait parameters that differed between the two groups were the speeds at which the animals traveled and the transverse forces on the hind limb. The myostatin-deficient mice move relatively slowly and experienced the same magnitude of vertical forces on all limbs and transverse forces on the forelimb as the wild-type mice; though the myostatin-deficient mice did experience lower mediolateral forces on their hindlimbs compared with the wild-type mice. These preliminary results call into question the hypothesis that skeletal hypertrophy observed in hypermuscular mice is a result of larger GRFs experienced by the animals' limbs during locomotion. This calls for further analysis and a cautious approach to inferences about locomotor behavior derived from bony morphology in extant and fossil species. J. Exp. Zool. 313A:339–351, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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