Postnatal long bone growth in terrestrial placental mammals: Allometry, life history, and organismal traits

Brandon M. Kilbourne, Peter J. Makovicky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The ontogenetic allometry of long bone proportions is poorly understood in Mammalia. It has previously been suggested that during mammalian ontogeny long bone proportions grow more slender (positive allometry; length ∝ circumference>1.0), although this conclusion was based upon data from a few small-bodied taxa. It remains unknown how ontogenetic long bone allometry varies across Mammalia in terms of both taxonomy and body size. We collected long bone length and circumference data for ontogenetic samples of 22 species of mammals spanning six major clades and three orders of magnitude in body mass. Using reduced major axis bivariate regressions to compare bone length to circumference, we found that isometry and positive allometry are the most widespread patterns of growth across mammals. Negative allometry (i.e., bones growing more robust during ontogeny) occurs in mammals but is largely restricted to cetartiodactyls. Using regression slope as a proxy for long bone allometry, we compared long bone allometry to life history and organismal traits. Neonatal body mass, adult body mass, and growth rate have a negative relationship with long bone allometry. At an adult mass of roughly 15-20 kg, long bone growth shifts from positive allometry to mainly isometry and negative allometry. There were no significant relationships between ontogenetic long bone allometry and either cursoriality or basal metabolic rate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1111-1126
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Allometry
  • Long bones
  • Mammals
  • Ontogeny


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