A Comparative Study of Trabecular Bone Mass Distribution in Cursorial and Non-Cursorial Limb Joints

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 11-19-2014


Skeletal design among cursorial animals is a compromise between a stable body that can withstand locomotor stress and a light design that is energetically inexpensive to grow, maintain, and move. Cursors have been hypothesized to reduce distal musculoskeletal mass to maintain a balance between safety and energetic cost due to an exponential increase in energetic demand observed during the oscillation of the distal limb. Additionally, experimental research shows that the cortical bone in distal limbs experiences higher strains and remodeling rates, apparently maintaining lower mass at the expense of a smaller safety factor. This study tests the hypothesis that the trabecular bone mass in the distal limb epiphyses of cursors is relatively lower than that in the proximal limb epiphyses to minimize the energetic cost of moving the limb. This study utilized peripheral quantitative computed tomography scanning to measure the trabecular mass in the lower and upper limb epiphyses of hominids, cercopithecines, and felids that are considered cursorial and non-cursorial. One-way ANOVA with Tukey post hoc corrections was used to test for significant differences in trabecular mass across limb epiphyses. The results indicate that overall, both cursors and non-cursors exhibit varied trabecular mass in limb epiphyses and, in certain instances, conform to a proximal-distal decrease in mass irrespective of cursoriality. Specifically, hominid and cercopithecine hind limb epiphyses exhibit a proximal-distal decrease in mass irrespective of cursorial adaptations. These results suggest that cursorial mammals employ other energy saving mechanisms to minimize energy costs during running.


The version of record is available from the publisher at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ar.23090/epdf. Copyright © 2014 WILEY PERIODICALS, INC. All rights reserved.