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Development of limb bone laminarity in the homing pigeon (Columba livia)


Lee, Andrew; McGuire, Rylee; Ourfalian, Raffi; Ezell, Kelly (2020), Development of limb bone laminarity in the homing pigeon (Columba livia), Dryad, Dataset,


Background. Birds show adaptations in limb bone shape that are associated with resisting locomotor loads. Whether comparable adaptations occur in the microstructure of avian cortical bone is less clear. One proposed microstructural adaptation is laminar bone in which the proportion of circumferentially-oriented vascular canals (i.e., laminarity) is large. Previous work on adult birds shows elevated laminarity in specific limb elements of some taxa, presumably to resist torsion-induced shear strain during locomotion. However, more recent analyses using improved measurements in adult birds and bats reveal lower laminarity than expected in bones associated with torsional loading. Even so, there may still be support for the resistance hypothesis if laminarity increases with growth and locomotor maturation.

Methods. Here, we tested that hypothesis using a growth series of 17 homing pigeons (15–563 g). Torsional rigidity and laminarity of limb bones were measured from histological sections sampled from midshaft. Ontogenetic trends in laminarity were assessed using principal component analysis to reduce dimensionality followed by beta regression with a logit link function.

Results. We found that torsional rigidity of limb bones increases disproportionately with growth, consistent with rapid structural compensation associated with locomotor maturation. However, laminarity decreases with maturity, weakening the hypothesis that high laminarity is a flight adaptation at least in the pigeon. Instead, the histological results suggest that low laminarity, specifically the relative proportion of longitudinal canals aligned with peak principal strains, may better reflect the loading history of a bone.


Limb bones from a growth series of 17 homing pigeons were dissected, and transverse undecalcified sections were prepared from the midshaft following the methods of Lee and Simons (2015).  Sections were surface stained with toluidine blue and imaged with a motorized microscope.


Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine Summer Research Fellowship

Intramural Funds