Histological variability in the limb bones of the Asiatic wild ass and its significance for life history inferences

Carmen Nacarino-Meneses, Xavier Jordana, Meike Köhler

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15 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016 Nacarino-Meneses et al. The study of bone growth marks (BGMs) and other histological traits of bone tissue provides insights into the life history of present and past organisms. Important life history traits like longevity or age at maturity, which could be inferred from the analysis of these features, form the basis for estimations of demographic parameters that are essential in ecological and evolutionary studies of vertebrates. Here, we study the intraskeletal histological variability in an ontogenetic series of Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus) in order to assess the suitability of several skeletal elements to reconstruct the life history strategy of the species. Bone tissue types, vascular canal orientation and BGMs have been analyzed in 35 cross-sections of femur, tibia and metapodial bones of 9 individuals of different sexes, ages and habitats. Our results show that the number of BGMs recorded by the different limb bones varies within the same specimen. Our study supports that the femur is the most reliable bone for skeletochronology, as already suggested. Our findings also challenge traditional beliefs with regard to the meaning of deposition of the external fundamental system (EFS). In the Asiatic wild ass, this bone tissue is deposited some time after skeletal maturity and, in the case of the femora, coinciding with the reproductive maturity of the species. The results obtained from this research are not only relevant for future studies in fossil Equus, but could also contribute to improve the conservation strategies of threatened equid species.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2580
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Bone growth marks
  • Bone histology
  • Equus hemionus
  • External fundamental system
  • Intraskeletal histological variability
  • Life history
  • Limb bones
  • Longevity
  • Reproductive maturity
  • Skeletochronology


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