• bone adaptation;
  • mineral content;
  • mule deer calcaneus;
  • osteons;
  • collagen fiber orientation;
  • osteocyte lacuna;
  • cortical thickness


If a bone's morphologic organization exhibits the accumulated effects of its strain history, then the relative contributions of a given strain stimulus to a bone's development may be inferred from a bone's hierarchical organization. The artiodactyl calcaneus is a short cantilever, loaded habitually in bending, with prevalent compression in the cranial (Cr) cortex, tension in the caudal (Cd) cortex, and shear in the medial and lateral cortices (i.e., neutral axis). Artiodactyl calcanei demonstrate unusually heterogeneous structural and material organization between these cortices. This study examines potential relationships between developmental morphologic variations and the functional strain distribution of the deer calcaneus. One calcaneus was obtained from each of 36 (fetus to adult) wild deer. Predominant collagen fiber orientation (CFO), microstructural characteristics, mineral content (% ash), and geometric parameters were determined from transversely cut segments. Radiographs were examined for arched trabeculae, which may reflect tension/compression stress trajectories. Results showed that cross-sectional shape changes with age from quasi-circular to quasi-elliptical, with the long axis in the cranial–caudal direction of habitual bending. Cranial (“compression”) cortical thickness increased at a greater rate than the Cd (“tension”) cortex. Fetal bones exhibited arched trabeculae. Percent ash was not uniform (Cr > Cd), and this disparity increased with age (absolute differences: 2.5% fetuses, 4.3% adults). Subadult bones showed progressively more secondary osteons and osteocyte lacunae in the Cr cortex, but the Cd cortex tended to have more active remodeling in the subadult and adult bones. Nonuniform Cr:Cd CFO patterns first consistently appear in the subadults, and are correlated with secondary bone formation and habitual strain mode. Medial and lateral cortices in these groups exhibited elongated secondary osteons. These variations may represent “strain-mode-specific” (i.e., tension, compression, shear) adaptations. The heterogeneous organization may also be influenced by variations in longitudinal strain magnitude (highest in the Cr cortex) and principal strain direction—oblique in medial-lateral cortices (where shear strains also predominate). Other factors such as local reductions in longitudinal strain may influence the increased remodeling activity of the Cd cortex. Some structural variations, such as arched trabeculae, that are established early in ontogeny may be strongly influenced by genetic- or epigenetic-derived processes. Material variations, such as secondary osteon population densities and CFO, which appear later, may be products of extragenetic factors, including microdamage. J. Morphol. 259:281–307, 2004. Published 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.