The Science of Nature

, 103:58

Scaling effect on the mid-diaphysis properties of long bones—the case of the Cervidae (deer)

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00114-016-1379-7

Cite this article as:
Amson, E. & Kolb, C. Sci Nat (2016) 103: 58. doi:10.1007/s00114-016-1379-7


How skeletal elements scale to size is a fundamental question in biology. While the external shape of long bones was intensively studied, an important component of their organization is also found in their less accessible inner structure. Here, we studied mid-diaphyseal properties of limb long bones, characterizing notably the thickness of their cortices (bone walls), in order to test whether body size directly influences bone inner organization. Previous examinations of scaling in long bones used broad samplings to encompass a wide range of body sizes. To account for the effect of confounding factors related to different lifestyles, we focused our comprehensive sampling on a mammalian clade that comprises various body sizes but a relatively uniform lifestyle, the Cervidae. Positive allometry was found in femoral cross-sectional shape, indicating greater directional bending rigidity in large-sized taxa. None of the compactness parameters scaled allometrically in any of their bones. The cortices of sampled zeugopodial bones (tibia and radius) were found as significantly thicker than those of stylopodial bones (femur and humerus). Furthermore, while the mean relative cortical thickness values for both stylopodial and zeugopodial bones are close to mass-saving optima, the variance for the stylopodial bones is significantly lower. This suggests that mass saving is less intensively selected in zeugopodial bones. Finally, the long-legged Elk (Alces) and the short-legged dwarf Cretan deer (Candiacervus) featured rather thin and thick cortices, respectively, suggesting that the acquisition of a different limb proportion is accompanied by a modification of the relative mid-diaphyseal cortical thickness.


Allometry Bone compactness Cervidae Cortical thickness Cross-sectional shape Long bone 

Supplementary material

114_2016_1379_MOESM1_ESM.docx (4.3 mb)
Online resource 1Supplementary figure and tables (DOCX 4.34 MB)
114_2016_1379_MOESM2_ESM.nex (29 kb)
Online resource 2This nexus file comprises the matrices of data and timetree allowing to perform the phylogenetically informed statistical tests on the relative cortical thickness (P parameter) and associated section maximum diameter (MD). (NEX 28 kb)
114_2016_1379_MOESM3_ESM.nex (30 kb)
Online resource 3This nexus file comprises the matrices of data and timetree allowing to perform the phylogenetically informed statistical tests on the cross-sectional shape (CSS) and associated cross-sectional area (CSA). (NEX 29 kb)
114_2016_1379_MOESM4_ESM.xlsx (171 kb)
Online resource 4This MS excel file comprises all measured compactness parameters for the whole dataset. (XLSX 170 kb)
114_2016_1379_MOESM5_ESM.xlsx (26 kb)
Online resource 5This MS excel file comprises all measured slice geometry parameters for the whole dataset. (XLSX 26 kb)

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung
  • SNF 31003A_149605
Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung

    Copyright information

    © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

    Authors and Affiliations

    1. 1.Paläontologisches Institut und Museum der Universität ZürichZürichSwitzerland
    2. 2.AG Morphologie und Formengeschichte, Bild Wissen Gestaltung-ein Interdisziplinäres Labor and Institut für BiologieHumboldt-UniversitätBerlinGermany

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