Trabecular bone microstructure scales allometrically in the primate humerus and femur

Timothy M. Ryan, Colin N. Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Most analyses of trabecular microarchitecture in mammals have focused on the functional significance of inter specific variation, but they have not effectively considered the influence of body size or phylogenyon bone architecture. The goals of this study were to determine the relationship between trabecular bone and body size in the humeral and femoral heads of extant primates, and to assess the influence of phylogenyon bone microstructure. Using a sample of 235 individuals from 34 primate species, ranging in body size from 0.06 to 130 kg, the relationships between trabecular bone structure and body size were assessed by using conventional and phylogenetic regression analyses. Bone volume fraction, trabecular thickness and trabecular spacing increase with body size, whereas bone surface-area-to-volume ratio decreases. Shape variables such astrabecular number, connectivity density and degree of aniso-tropy scale inversely with size. Most of these variables scale with significant negative allometry, except bone surface-area-to-volume ratio, which scales with slight positive allometry. Phylogenetic regressions indicate a relatively weak phylogenetic signal in some trabecular bone variables. These data demonstrate that, relative to body size, large primates have thinner and more tightly packed trabeculae than small primates. The relatively thin trabeculae in large primates and other mammals, coupled with constraints on trabecular thickness related to osteocyte function, suggest that increased skeletal loads in the postcranial joints of large mammals are probably mitigated not only through alterations in trabecular microarchitecture, but also through other mechanisms such as changes in cortical bone distribution, limb posture and gait speed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20130824
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1758
StatePublished - May 7 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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