A new research has revealed that the structures inside animals’ thighbones enable them to support huge loads whilst being relatively lightweight.
The researchers say the findings could lead to the development of new materials based on thighbone geometry.
A team from Imperial College London and the Royal Veterinary College collected thigh bone samples from British museum collections and zoos, analysing specimens of the femur bone from 90 different species including the Asian elephant, Etruscan shrew, roadrunner, crocodile, emu, turkey, leopard and giraffe. They explored how animal size related to the formation of an interlinking lattice of tiny bone struts inside the femur called trabeculae. The researchers found that trabeculae, typically found near joints, have different geometry depending on the size of the species.
The researchers say their new understanding of how femur bones are structured could be used to advance a class of tough, light-weight structural materials, which could be used to improve bodywork for planes and cars.
The scientists found that even though the overall amount of bone per unit volume stayed roughly the same in bigger animals and smaller animals, the trabeculae in bigger animals were thicker, further apart and less numerous.
The team suggests that the big trabecular struts inside the bones of larger animals help to support their heavier load without the need for thicker and denser bones. Using this structure saves valuable energy in larger animals because they do not have to grow, maintain and carry extra bone tissue around with them.
The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (ANI)