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Ostrich, Skull, Validation, Strain, Finite element analysis

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The first finite element (FE) validation of a complete avian cranium was performed on an extant palaeognath, the ostrich (Struthio camelus). Ex-vivo strains were collected from the cranial bone and rhamphotheca. These experimental strains were then compared to convergence tested, specimen-specific finite element (FE) models. The FE models contained segmented cortical and trabecular bone, sutures and the keratinous rhamphotheca as identified from micro-CT scan data. Each of these individual materials was assigned isotropic material properties either from the literature or from nanoindentation, and the FE models compared to the ex-vivo results. The FE models generally replicate the location of peak strains and reflect the correct mode of deformation in the rostral region. The models are too stiff in regions of experimentally recorded high strain and too elastic in regions of low experimentally recorded low strain. The mode of deformation in the low strain neurocranial region is not replicated by the FE models, and although the models replicate strain orientations to within 10° in some regions, in most regions the correlation is not strong. Cranial sutures, as has previously been found in other taxa, are important for modifying both strain magnitude and strain patterns across the entire skull, but especially between opposing the sutural junctions. Experimentally, we find that the strains on the surface of the rhamphotheca are much lower than those found on nearby bone. The FE models produce much higher principal strains despite similar strain ratios across the entirety of the rhamphotheca. This study emphasises the importance of attempting to validate FE models, modelling sutures and rhamphothecae in birds, and shows that whilst location of peak strain and patterns of deformation can be modelled, replicating experimental data in digital models of avian crania remains problematic.

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PeerJ, v. 3, art. e1294

3D_Ostrich_Small.pdf (9372 kB)
The grey material is cortical bone, the red rectangles are membrane elements that mirror the strain gauges. Gauge 6 was non-functional so was not included in the model. The blue lines are sutures, and the yellow material is the keratinous rhamphotheca. The trabecular bone is a light yellow under the cortical bone.

Supplementary Information.pdf (388 kB)
Supplementary Information