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Even-toed but uneven in length: the digits of artiodactyls


Keller, A; Clauss, Marcus; Muggli, Evelyne; Nuss, Karl (2009). Even-toed but uneven in length: the digits of artiodactyls. Zoology, 112(4):270-278.

Abstract

In captive ruminants housed in small enclosures, characteristic hypertrophy of the outer hooves of the hind limbs is often observed. We hypothesized that the underlying cause is overload attributable to an asymmetry of the digits, especially with respect to their length. To test this hypothesis, the bones of the digits of four species of artiodactyls, which included 11 wild chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), 11 captive fallow deer (Dama dama), 11 captive bison (Bison bison) and 11 European moose (Alces alces; 9 wild, 2 captive), were radiographed post mortem, and measured using a computer program. In addition, the dimensions of the outer and inner hooves were measured directly with a calliper that had an accuracy of 0.1 mm. The mean lengths of the epiphysis of the fourth metacarpal/metatarsal bone and the first and second phalanges of the fourth digit were greater than that of the third digit, whereas the third phalanx of the third digit had a greater mean length. The fourth digit of the forelimbs was an average of 0.5 mm longer in the chamois, 0.9 mm in the fallow deer, 3.0 in the bison and 2.9 longer in the moose. In the hind limbs, the fourth digit was an average of 3.0 mm longer in the chamois, 1.4 mm in the fallow deer, 2.3 mm in the bison and 5.3 mm in the moose. The mean total length of the fourth digit of the fore limbs was greater than that of the third digit in 73 – 95 % of specimens, depending on species. In the hind limbs, the fourth digit was longer in 91 – 100 % of the specimens. The hooves of the fourth digit were significantly broader than the hooves of the third digit, whereas the inner hooves of the third digits had a greater toe length than those of the fourth digit. The paired digits of artiodactyls are uneven in length, which suggests a different function during stance and weight bearing. It is conceivable that this asymmetry is the result of selection processes that favoured locomotion on soft ground.

Abstract

In captive ruminants housed in small enclosures, characteristic hypertrophy of the outer hooves of the hind limbs is often observed. We hypothesized that the underlying cause is overload attributable to an asymmetry of the digits, especially with respect to their length. To test this hypothesis, the bones of the digits of four species of artiodactyls, which included 11 wild chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), 11 captive fallow deer (Dama dama), 11 captive bison (Bison bison) and 11 European moose (Alces alces; 9 wild, 2 captive), were radiographed post mortem, and measured using a computer program. In addition, the dimensions of the outer and inner hooves were measured directly with a calliper that had an accuracy of 0.1 mm. The mean lengths of the epiphysis of the fourth metacarpal/metatarsal bone and the first and second phalanges of the fourth digit were greater than that of the third digit, whereas the third phalanx of the third digit had a greater mean length. The fourth digit of the forelimbs was an average of 0.5 mm longer in the chamois, 0.9 mm in the fallow deer, 3.0 in the bison and 2.9 longer in the moose. In the hind limbs, the fourth digit was an average of 3.0 mm longer in the chamois, 1.4 mm in the fallow deer, 2.3 mm in the bison and 5.3 mm in the moose. The mean total length of the fourth digit of the fore limbs was greater than that of the third digit in 73 – 95 % of specimens, depending on species. In the hind limbs, the fourth digit was longer in 91 – 100 % of the specimens. The hooves of the fourth digit were significantly broader than the hooves of the third digit, whereas the inner hooves of the third digits had a greater toe length than those of the fourth digit. The paired digits of artiodactyls are uneven in length, which suggests a different function during stance and weight bearing. It is conceivable that this asymmetry is the result of selection processes that favoured locomotion on soft ground.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinary Clinic > Department of Small Animals
05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinary Clinic > Department of Farm Animals
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
630 Agriculture
Date:2009
Deposited On:08 Jun 2009 05:02
Last Modified:05 Oct 2016 07:11
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0944-2006
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.zool.2008.11.001
PubMed ID:19386479

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