Journal of Materials Science

, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 2026–2034 | Cite as

Quantitative fractography for estimating whole bone properties of manatee rib bones

  • Kari B. Clifton
  • Roger L. Reep
  • John J. MecholskyJr.


The goals of this study were to estimate the stress at failure and the fracture toughness of whole manatee ribs fractured in impact; and to determine whether typical watercraft are capable of generating enough energy to break manatee ribs upon impact. The unique construction of manatee ribs enabled us to apply quantitative fractographic techniques to measure some fracture mechanics parameters. Adult manatee bone behaves more like a ceramic than other types of bone. Due to this, we were able to see many of the features observed for brittle fracture in ceramics. We were able to identify crack origins, and make quantitative measurements of crack size. Failure stress was constant across body size despite the increase in rib size as the animals grow. Similarly, flaw size was the same for all animals regardless of body size. Fracture toughness for whole ribs (measured as the critical stress intensity factor, KC) calculated from strain gage data was 8 MPa m1/2. This value was greater than that reported for small sample specimens, suggestive of R-curve behavior in this bone. There were no differences between the sexes in their ability to resist fracture. Kinetic energy calculations indicated that recreational boats commonly found in Florida waters are capable of generating sufficient energy to fracture manatee ribs upon impact.


Fracture Toughness Crack Size Failure Stress Curve Beam Total Body Length 



Funding was provided by a University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Florida University Scholars Program, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute provided the bone samples. We gratefully acknowledge Chuck Broward for providing his expertise with the air cannon, and to Peter Ifju and Billy Schultz for the strain gage work and static testing. Thanks to Beth Carson, Travis Schrock, and Chris Woan for their assistance with this project. This research was conducted in accordance with IACUC guidelines at the University of Florida.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kari B. Clifton
    • 1
    • 2
  • Roger L. Reep
    • 1
  • John J. MecholskyJr.
    • 3
  1. 1.Physiological SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Endocrine Research Unit, Jo-194Mayo Clinic College of MedicineRochesterUSA
  3. 3.Materials Science and EngineeringUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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