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You are here: Home / Associated publications / Belgian Journal of Zoology / Bibliographic References / Optimization of skeletal structure in vertebrates.

R. McNeill Alexander (1992)

Optimization of skeletal structure in vertebrates.


Stresses due to bending moments generally predominate in long bones. They can be equalized along the length of the bone shaft if the bone tapers so as to make section modulus proportional to distance from the distal end. For marrow-filled bones, there is an optimum ratio of radius to wall thickness that minimizes mass for given strength, but different strength criteria give different optimum ratios. Increasing the strength of a bone reduces the probability of failure but increase the cost of growing the bone and the energy cost of moving it. A theory of optimum safety factors has been formulated but has not been used quantitatively because of the difficulty of expressing the cost of failure in the same currency as the other costs. A theory of optimum elastic stiffness successfully predicts the thicknesses of typical tendons. The possibility that the stiffness of bones is optimized, rather than their strength, is considered.

  • ISSN: 0777-6276

ISSN 2295-0451 (online version)
ISSN 0777-6279 (printed version)
impact factor 2015: 0,87.

Prof. Dr. Isa Schön
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
Vautierstraat 29
1000 Brussels, Belgium


Annales de la Société malacologique de Belgique
​Annales de la Société royale malacologique et zoologique de Belgique
Annales de la Société Royale Zoologique de Belgique
Belgian Journal of Zoology