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J Morphol. 1999 Feb;239(2):167-90.

Scaling of the limb long bones to body mass in terrestrial mammals.

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Department for Historical Geology and Paleontology, Geological Institute, Copenhagen K., Denmark. Perc@geo.geol.Ku.DK


Long-bone scaling has been analyzed in a large number of terrestrial mammals for which body masses were known. Earlier proposals that geometric or elastic similarity are suitable as explanations for long-bone scaling across a large size range are not supported. Differential scaling is present, and large mammals on average scale with lower regression slopes than small mammals. Large mammals tend to reduce bending stress during locomotion by having shorter limb bones than predicted rather than by having very thick diaphyses, as is usually assumed. The choice of regression model used to describe data samples in analyses of scaling becomes increasingly important as correlation coefficients decrease, and theoretical models supported by one analysis may not be supported when applying another statistical model to the same data. Differences in limb posture and locomotor performance have profound influence on the amount of stress set up in the appendicular bones during rigorous physical activity and make it unlikely that scaling of long bones across a large size range of terrestrial mammals can be satisfactorily explained by any one power function.

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