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Keywords:

  • development;
  • female femur;
  • geometric morphometric;
  • lower limb;
  • ontogeny;
  • sub-adult individuals

Abstract

In this study we describe the development of the female femur based on the analysis of high-resolution radiographic images by means of geometric morphometrics, while assessing the usefulness of this method in these kinds of studies. The material analysed consisted of digital images in DICOM format (telemetries), corresponding to 184 left femora in anterior view, obtained from the database of the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu of Barcelona (Spain). Bones analysed corresponded to individuals from 9 to 14 years old. Size and shape variation of the entire femur was quantified by 22 two-dimensional landmarks. Landmark digitisation errors were assessed using Procrustes anova test. Centroid size (CS) variation with age was evaluated by an anova test. Shape variation was assessed by principal component analysis. A mancova test between the first five principal components and age, using the CS as covariable, was applied. Results indicated that both size and shape vary significantly with age. Several age-related shape changes remained significant after removing the allometric effect. In general, an increase in the robustness of the bone and noticeable phenotypic changes in certain areas of the femur were observed. During growth in the proximal region of the femur, the collo-diaphyseal angle decreases, the neck of the femur widens and the fovea moves to a lower position, standing more in line with the plane of the neck. Likewise, the size of the greater and lesser trochanters increase. In the distal region, a significant increase of epiphyseal dimensions was recorded, mainly in the medial condyle. The angular remodelling of the neck and the bicondylar region of the femur in females continues until 13 years old. The information provided in the present study increases our knowledge on the timing and morphology of the femur during development, and in particular the morphology of the different femoral ossification centres during development.