Trabecular bone patterning in the hominoid distal femur

Leoni Georgiou, Tracy L Kivell, Dieter H Pahr, Matthew M Skinner

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

16 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: In addition to external bone shape and cortical bone thickness and distribution, the distribution and orientation of internal trabecular bone across individuals and species has yielded important functional information on how bone adapts in response to load. In particular, trabecular bone analysis has played a key role in studies of human and nonhuman primate locomotion and has shown that species with different locomotor repertoires display distinct trabecular architecture in various regions of the skeleton. In this study, we analyse trabecular structure throughout the distal femur of extant hominoids and test for differences due to locomotor loading regime.

METHODS: Micro-computed tomography scans of Homo sapiens (n = 11), Pan troglodytes (n = 18), Gorilla gorilla (n = 14) and Pongo sp. (n = 7) were used to investigate trabecular structure throughout the distal epiphysis of the femur. We predicted that bone volume fraction (BV/TV) in the medial and lateral condyles in Homo would be distally concentrated and more anisotropic due to a habitual extended knee posture at the point of peak ground reaction force during bipedal locomotion, whereas great apes would show more posteriorly concentrated BV/TV and greater isotropy due to a flexed knee posture and more variable hindlimb use during locomotion.

RESULTS: Results indicate some significant differences between taxa, with the most prominent being higher BV/TV in the posterosuperior region of the condyles in Pan and higher BV/TV and anisotropy in the posteroinferior region in Homo. Furthermore, trabecular number, spacing and thickness differ significantly, mainly separating Gorilla from the other apes.

DISCUSSION: The trabecular architecture of the distal femur holds a functional signal linked to habitual behaviour; however, there was more similarity across taxa and greater intraspecific variability than expected. Specifically, there was a large degree of overlap in trabecular structure across the sample, and Homo was not as distinct as predicted. Nonetheless, this study offers a comparative sample of trabecular structure in the hominoid distal femur and can contribute to future studies of locomotion in extinct taxa.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere5156
Pages (from-to)e5156
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Functional morphology
  • Hominoid
  • Locomotion
  • Trabecular bone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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