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Determination of hip-joint loading patterns of living and extinct mammals using an inverse Wolff’s law approach

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It is well known that bone adapts its microstructure in response to loading. Based on this form-follows-function relationship, we previously developed a reverse approach to derive joint loads from bone microstructure as acquired with micro-computed tomography. Here, we challenge this approach by calculating hip-joint loading patterns for human and dog, two species exhibiting different locomotion, and comparing them to in vivo measurements. As a proof of concept to use the approach also for extinct taxa, we applied it to a cave lion fossil bone. Calculations were in close agreement with in vivo measurements during walking for extant species, showing distinguished patterns for bipedalism and quadrupedalism. The cave lion calculations clearly revealed its quadrupedal locomotion and suggested a more diverse behaviour compared to the dog, which is in agreement with extant felids. This indicates that our novel approach is potentially useful for making inferences about locomotion in living as well as extinct mammals and to study evolutionary joint development.

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We thank Reinier van Zelst and Steven D. van der Mije from Naturalis Biodiversity Center for providing a cave lion fossil, Claudia F. Wolschrijn from Utrecht University for providing a dog femur, Ralph Müller from ETH Zurich for support through the VPHOP WP5 group, Joost J.A. de Jong for helping scanning the cave lion fossil, and Joop P.W. van den Bergh for providing the XtremeCT facility at Maastricht University. Funding from the European Union for the osteoporotic virtual physiological human project (VPHOP FP7-ICT2008-223865) is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Bert van Rietbergen.

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Christen, P., Ito, K., Galis, F. et al. Determination of hip-joint loading patterns of living and extinct mammals using an inverse Wolff’s law approach. Biomech Model Mechanobiol 14, 427–432 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10237-014-0602-8

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  • Bone form–function relationship
  • Hip-joint loading patterns
  • Bone/fossil microstructure
  • Locomotion
  • Micro-computed tomography
  • Micro-finite element modelling