The effects of cracks on the quantification of the cancellous bone fabric tensor in fossil and archaeological specimens: a simulation study
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Cancellous bone is very sensitive to its prevailing mechanical environment, and study of its architecture has previously aided interpretations of locomotor biomechanics in extinct animals or archaeological populations. However, quantification of architectural features may be compromised by poor preservation in fossil and archaeological specimens, such as post mortem cracking or fracturing. In this study, the effects of post mortem cracks on the quantification of cancellous bone fabric were investigated through the simulation of cracks in otherwise undamaged modern bone samples. The effect on both scalar (degree of fabric anisotropy, fabric elongation index) and vector (principal fabric directions) variables was assessed through comparing the results of architectural analyses of cracked vs. non-cracked samples. Error was found to decrease as the relative size of the crack decreased, and as the orientation of the crack approached the orientation of the primary fabric direction. However, even in the best-case scenario simulated, error remained substantial, with at least 18% of simulations showing a > 10% error when scalar variables were considered, and at least 6.7% of simulations showing a > 10° error when vector variables were considered. As a 10% (scalar) or 10° (vector) difference is probably too large for reliable interpretation of a fossil or archaeological specimen, these results suggest that cracks should be avoided if possible when analysing cancellous bone architecture in such specimens.
Journal of Anatomy
Speciation and Extinction