Assessing the biology of fossil vertebrates through bone histology

Chinsamy, Anusuya
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Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research
Soon after death and burial of an animal, the organic components of bone generally decay. The closely associated inorganic components (mainly apatite) are more resilient and even after millions of years of burial, preserve the spatial organisation of the collagen fibres and hence the structure of the bone. In the past fossil bone histology has been the subject of substantial research. Such studies have included a wide array of extinct vertebrates including fishes, amphibians, pelycosaurs, therapsids, ichthyosaurs, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs. The relative rate ofbone formation is indicated by the texture of the fibrillar matrix, while the overall nature of the primary compact bone provides a direct assessment of whether bone deposition was continuous or interrupted. The amount of secondary bone formation depicts the extent of primary bone resorption and subsequent redeposition. In addition, the internal organisation of bone indicates remodelling and relocation processes of growth, including functional adaptations of the bone morphology. Thus, osteohistology reflects ontogeny, growth dynamics, biomechanical adaptations, as well as various events that punctuate the life history of an animal.
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Bone histology, bone microstructure, osteohistology, vertebrates, fossils.