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You are here: Home Individual Projects First Funding Period (2004-2007) Project C5: Bone Strength

Project C5: Bone Strength

Title Microstructure and functional adaptation of dinosaur bones
Principal Investigator Prof. Dr.-Ing Anke Pyzalla


The motivation of this project is substantiated by the growing interest in bio-structures, that is, structures optimised by nature in the process of functional adaptation. Bone fulfils two major roles: a metabolic (reservoir for calcium and phosphates) and a mechanical one (body support). The mechanical function becomes dominant especially when the skeleton is heavily loaded such as in the case of giant terrestrial animals – such as sauropod dinosaurs.

To reach a gigantic size a construction has to have special adaptations. This can be achieved by a simple size increase which, however, is constrained by the material properties on the one hand and the pursuit of nature of minimum mass design on the other hand. For sauropods, a change of material properties is not probable since bones of all vertebrates are based on the same constituents. Instead we hypothesize that the adaptation mechanism of sauropod dinosaur bones is the internal design (microstructure). The purpose of this project is thus a characterization of the structure of sauropod dinosaur bones at all levels of hierarchical organisation with regard to the high mechanical loads imposed on them during the lifetime of the animal. The methods employed are microscopy, diffraction methods, microtomography and spectroscopic methods employing synchrotron radiation. These methods will be applied to fossils from the Tendaguru beds and the Morrison Formation.

Understanding the adaptations of sauropod fossil bones to extreme mechanical loads and the underlying strengthening mechanisms may indicate new possibilities for an optimisation of human-made materials.


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