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Keywords:

  • trabecular bone;
  • locomotion;
  • vertical clinging and leaping;
  • fabric anisotropy

Abstract

The elastic properties and mechanical behavior of trabecular bone are largely determined by its three-dimensional (3D) fabric structure. Recent work demonstrating a correlation between the primary mechanical and material axes in trabecular bone specimens suggests that fabric orientation may be used to infer directional components of the material strength and, by extension, the hypothetical loading regime. Here we quantify the principal orientation of trabecular bone in the femoral head and relate these principal fabric directions to loading patterns during various locomotor behaviors. The proximal femora of a diverse sample of prosimians were scanned using a high-resolution X-ray computed tomography scanner with resolution of better than 50 μm. Spherical volumes of interest were defined within the femoral heads and the 3D fabric anisotropy was calculated using the mean intercept length and star volume distribution methods. In addition to differences in bone volume and anisotropy, significant differences were found in the spatial orientation of the principal trabecular axes depending on locomotor behavior. The principal orientations for leapers (Galago, Tarsius, Avahi) are relatively tightly clustered (α95 confidence limit: 8.2; angular variance s: 18.2°) and oriented in a superoanterior direction, while those of nonleapers are more variable across a range of directions (α95: 16.8; s: 42.0°). The mean principal directions are significantly different for leaping vs. nonleaping taxa. These results further suggest a relationship between bone microstructure in the hip joint and locomotor behavior and indicate a similarity of loading across leapers despite differences in kinematics and phylogeny. J. Morphol. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.