A CT-image-based framework for the holistic analysis of cortical and trabecular bone morphology

Thomas Gross*, Tracy L. Kivell, Matthew M. Skinner, N. Huynh Nguyen, Dieter H. Pahr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

52 Citations (Scopus)


This study introduces a standardized framework for the holistic analysis of cortical and trabecular bone structure. This method, although applicable to all bones of the skeleton, is particularly useful for irregular-shaped or small bones for which the application of traditional methods has been especially challenging. Traditional analyses have quantified cortical or trabecular structure in only selected regions of a bone, such as single cross-sections of cortical bone or volumes of interest of trabecular structure in epiphyses. The proposed method improves on these traditional methods by visualizing and quantifying the internal bony structure throughout the entire bone and in user-defined anatomical subregions. Here, we describe and demonstrate the method using high-resolution microtomographic scans of a first metacarpal of an orangutan, gorilla, chimpanzee and human. Using automated morphological filters, the cortical bone is defined and extracted from the underlying trabecular structure to create two 3D models, one of the cortex and one of the trabecular bone that can be analysed separately. We test the sensitivity of the morphological parameters used to create these 3D models, demonstrating that the parameters defined here are robust and can provide accurate measures of cortical thickness, relative bone density, trabecular orientation, trabecular thickness and degree of anisotropy. This new, holistic method is able to reveal morphological and functional information about bone loading that is obscured or ignored using traditional methods, thus providing more informed interpretations of behaviour in extant and fossil taxa.

Original languageEnglish
Article number33A
JournalPalaeontologia Electronica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancellous bone
  • Functional morphology
  • Hominoid
  • Locomotion
  • Metacarpal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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