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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2007 Nov;134(3):412-23.

Which measures of diaphyseal robusticity are robust? A comparison of external methods of quantifying the strength of long bone diaphyses to cross-sectional geometric properties.

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Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, Department of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.


Measures of diaphyseal robusticity have commonly been used to investigate differences in bone strength related to body size, behavior, climate, and other factors. The most common methods of quantifying robusticity involve external diameters, or cross-sectional geometry. The data derived from these different methods are often used to address similar research questions, yet the compatibility of the resulting data has not been thoroughly tested. This study provides the first systematic comparison of externally derived measures of postcranial robusticity, with those based upon cross-sectional geometry. It includes sections taken throughout the skeleton, comparisons of prediction errors associated with different measurements, and analysis of the implications of different methods of body size standardization on the prediction of relative bone strength. While the results show reasonable correlations between diaphyseal diameters and strengths derived from cross-sectional geometry, considerable prediction errors are found in many cases. A new approach to externally based quantification of diaphyseal robusticity based upon moulding of sub-periosteal contours is proposed. This method maximizes correlation with cross-sectional geometry (r(2) = .998) and minimizes prediction errors in all cases. The results underscore the importance of accurate periosteal measurement in the quantification of bone strength, and suggest that, regardless of theoretical scaling predictions, external area based robusticity estimates involving the product of diaphyseal diameters are most directly comparable to cross-sectional geometric properties when they are standardized using the product of body mass and bone length.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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