An integrative analysis of elephant foot biomechanics

Charlotte E Miller, Lei Ren, John R Hutchinson

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstractpeer-review


As in all legged land animals the pes and manus of elephants are specialized to act at the animal: substrate interface, although, in this case, the
relationship is tested to extremes. Their large size, and ability to travel at moderately high speeds on hard ground without injury, suggests a
high level of functional adaptation within the manus and pes to withstanding repeated high loads and accelerations. Our previous work concentrated on describing the changing shape of internal musculoskeletal features of the manus and pes through ontogeny (scaling), and here we
present data from three sets of methodologies designed to test the inferences made from these results. Motion analysis and force plate data
were coupled for quantification of external deformation in live subjects, and contrasted with motion analysis of known load application to cadaveric specimens, allowing comparison of structural reactions to load under active and passive conditions. These methods quantify deformation in
the fibrous foot pad, a complex structure which, to date, has been difficult to analyze. Application of a series of known loads to cadaveric
specimens was also used to produce sequences of commuted tomography (CT) scans, allowing visualization of the changing orientations and locations of internal musculoskeletal features during loading. This technique provides direct comparison of loading conditions with results from previous scaling work.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2007


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