Biomechanical aspects of bone microstructure in vertebrates: potential approach to palaeontological investigations
Biomechanical or biophysical principles can be applied to study biological structures in their modern or fossil form. Bone is an important tissue in paleontological studies as it is a commonly preserved element in most fossil vertebrates, and can often allow its microstructures such as lacuna and canaliculi to be studied in detail. In this context, the principles of Fluid Mechanics and Scaling Laws have been previously applied to enhance the understanding of bone microarchitecture and their implications for the evolution of hydraulic structures to transport fluid. It has been shown that the microstructure of bone has evolved to maintain efficient transport between the nutrient supply and cells, the living components of the tissue. Application of the principle of minimal expenditure of energy to this analysis shows that the path distance comprising five or six lamellar regions represents an effective limit for fluid and solute transport between the nutrient supply and cells; beyond this threshold, hydraulic resistance in the network increases and additional energy expenditure is necessary for further transportation. This suggests an optimization of the size of the bone’s building blocks (such as osteon or trabecular thickness) to meet the metabolic demand concomitant to minimal expenditure of energy. This biomechanical aspect of bone microstructure is corroborated from the ratio of osteon to Haversian canal diameters and scaling constants of several mammals considered in this study. This aspect of vertebrate bone microstructure and physiology may provide a basis of understanding of the form and function relationship in both extinct and extant taxa.