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Regional differences in cortical bone organization and microdamage prevalence in Rocky Mountain mule deer.

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Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.


The limb bones of cursorial mammals may exhibit regional structural/material variations for local mechanical requirements. For example, it has been hypothesized that mineral content (%ash) and secondary osteon population density (OPD) progressively change from proximal (e.g., humerus) to distal (e.g., phalanx), in accordance with corresponding progressive changes in stress and mechanical/metabolic cost of functional use (both greatest in the distal limb). We tested this hypothesis in wild-shot Rocky Mountain mule deer by examining transverse segments from mid-diaphyses of medial proximal phalanges, principal metacarpals, radii, and humeri, as well as the lateral aspects of sixth ribs from each of 11 mature males. Quantified structural parameters included the section modulus (Z), polar moment of inertia (J), cortical area/total area ratio (CA/TA), bone girth, and cortical thickness. In addition, %ash and the prevalence of in vivo microcracks were measured in each bone. Thin sections from seven animals were further examined for OPD and population densities of new remodeling events (NREs). Results showed a significant progressive decrease in %ash from the humerus (75.4% +/- 0.9%) to the phalanx (69.4% +/- 1.1%) (P < 0.0001), with general proximal-to-distal increases in OPD and general decreases in J and Z. Thirteen microcracks were identified in the rib sections, and only two were observed in the limb bones. Although the ribs had considerably greater NREs, no significant differences in NREs were found between the limb bones, indicating that they had similar remodeling rates. Equivalent microcrack prevalence, but nonequivalent structural/material organization, suggests that there are regional adaptations that minimize microcrack production in locations with differences in loading conditions. The progressive proximal-to-distal decrease in %ash (up to 6%); moderate-to-high correlations between OPD, %ash, J, and CA/TA; and additional moderate-to-high correlations of these parameters with each bone's radius of gyration support the possibility that these variations are adaptations for regional loading conditions.

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