Locomotory stresses in the limb bones of two small mammals: the ground squirrel and chipmunk

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Peak stresses acting in limb bones should increase with increasing size if the forces acting on the bones increase in direct proportion to the animal's body weight. This is a direct consequence of the scaling of limb bone geometry over a wide range in size in mammals. In addition, recent work has shown that the material strength of bone is similar in large and small animals. If the assumptions in this analysis are correct, large animals would have a lower safety factor to failure than small animals. The purpose of this study was to measure peak stresses acting in the limb bones of small animals during locomotion and compare the results with similar measurements available for larger animals. Locomotory stresses acting in the fore and hindlimb bones of two rodents, the ground squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) and chipmunk (Tamais striatus), were calculated using ground force recordings and measurements of limb position taken from high speed x-ray cine films. Peak (compressive) stresses calculated to act in the bones of these animals (-31 to -86 MN/m2) are similar in magnitude to those determined for much larger mammals. The more proximal bones of the fore and hindlimb, the humerus and femur, were found to develop stresses (-31 to -42 MN/m2) significantly lower than those acting in the more distal bones of each limb: the radius, ulna and tibia (-58 to -86 MN/m2). All of the long bones from both species, except their femora, were found to be loaded principally in bending. The caudal cortices of each bone developed a peak compressive stress, whereas the cranial cortices were loaded in tension. Various features of the musculo-skeletal organization and manner of locomotion of these rodents are considered to explain how animals of different size maintain a uniform safety factor to failure.


Biewener, A AengT32GM07117/GM/NIGMS NIH HHS/Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.ENGLAND1983/03/01J Exp Biol. 1983 Mar;103:131-54.