Bone histological correlates of soaring and high-frequency flapping flight in the furculae of birds

Abstract : The furcula is a specialized bone in birds involved in flight function. Its morphology has been shown to reflect different flight styles from soaring/gliding birds, subaqueous flight to high-frequency flapping flyers. The strain experienced by furculae can vary depending on flight type. Bone remodeling is a response to damage incurred from different strain magnitudes and types. In this study, we tested whether a bone microstructural feature, namely Haversian bone density, differs in birds with different flight styles, and reassessed previous work using phylogenetic comparative methods that assume an evolutionary model with additional taxa. We show that soaring birds have higher Haversian bone densities than birds with a flapping style of flight. This result is probably linked to the fact that the furculae of soaring birds provide less protraction force and more depression force than furculae of birds showing other kinds of flight. The whole bone area is another explanatory factor, which confirms the fact that size is an important consideration in Haversian bone development. All birds, however, display Haversian bone development in their furculae, and other factors like age could be affecting the response of Haversian bone development.
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Jessica Mitchell, Lucas J. Legendre, Christine Lefèvre, Jorge Cubo. Bone histological correlates of soaring and high-frequency flapping flight in the furculae of birds. Zoology, Elsevier, 2017, 122, pp.90-99. ⟨10.1016/j.zool.2017.03.004⟩. ⟨hal-01527197⟩

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