Collagen Fiber Orientation in Primate Long Bones

Johanna Warshaw, Timothy G. Bromage, Carl J. Terranova, Donald H. Enlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies of variation in orientation of collagen fibers within bone have lead to the proposition that these are preferentially aligned to accommodate different kinds of load, with tension best resisted by fibers aligned longitudinally relative to the load, and compression best resisted by transversely aligned fibers. However, previous studies have often neglected to consider the effect of developmental processes, including constraints on collagen fiber orientation (CFO), particularly in primary bone. Here we use circularly polarized light microscopy to examine patterns of CFO in cross-sections from the midshaft femur, humerus, tibia, radius, and ulna in a range of living primate taxa with varied body sizes, phylogenetic relationships and positional behaviors. We find that a preponderance of longitudinally oriented collagen is characteristic of both periosteal primary and intracortically remodeled bone. Where variation does occur among groups, it is not simply understood via interpretations of mechanical loads, although prioritized adaptations to tension and/or shear are considered. While there is some suggestion that CFO may correlate with body size, this relationship is neither consistent nor easily explicable through consideration of size-related changes in mechanical adaptation. The results of our study indicate that there is no clear relationship between CFO and phylogenetic status. One of the principle factors accounting for the range of variation that does exist is primary tissue type, where slower depositing bone is more likely to comprise a larger proportion of oblique to transverse collagen fibers. Anat Rec, 300:1189–1207, 2017.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1189-1207
Number of pages19
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017


  • bone growth
  • bone histology
  • bone tissue types
  • collagen fiber orientation
  • mechanical adaptation
  • primates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Biotechnology
  • Histology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Collagen Fiber Orientation in Primate Long Bones'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this