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J R Soc Interface. 2012 Oct 7;9(75):2667-79. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2012.0153. Epub 2012 May 2.

Regional variation in the mechanical properties of the vertebral column during lateral bending in Morone saxatilis.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, 80 Waterman St. Box G-W, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


Unlike mammalian, disc-shaped intervertebral joints (IVJs), the IVJs in fishes are biconid structures, filled with fluid and thought to act as hydrostatic hinge joints during swimming. However, it remains unclear which IVJ structures are dominant in mechanical resistance to forces in fishes, and whether variation in these tissues might impact the function of the vertebral column along its length. Here, we measured the dynamic mechanical behaviour of IVJs from striped bass, Morone saxatilis. During lateral bending, angular stiffness was significantly lower in the caudal and cervical regions, relative to the abdominal region. The neutral zone, defined as the range of motion (ROM) at bending moments less than 0.001 Nm, was longer in the caudal relative to the abdominal IVJs. Hysteresis was 30-40% in all regions, suggesting that IVJs may play a role in energy dissipation during swimming. Cutting the vertical septum had no statistically significant effect, but cutting the encapsulating tissues caused a sharp decline in angular stiffness and a substantial increase in ROM and hysteresis. We conclude that stiffness decreases and ROM increases from cranial to caudal in striped bass, and that the encapsulating tissues play a prominent role in mechanical variation along the length of the vertebral column.

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