Data from: Limb-bone loading in swimming turtles: changes in loading facilitate transitions from tubular to flipper-shaped limbs during aquatic invasions
Members of several terrestrial vertebrate lineages have returned to nearly exclusive use of aquatic habitats. These transitions were often accompanied by changes in skeletal morphology, such as flattening of limb bone shafts. Such morphological changes might be correlated with the exposure of limb bones to altered loading. Though the environmental forces acting on the skeleton differ substantially between water and land, no empirical data exist to quantify the impact of such differences on the skeleton, either in terms of load magnitude or regime. To test how locomotor loads change between water and land, we compared in vivo strains from femora of turtles (Trachemys scripta) during swimming and terrestrial walking. As expected, strain magnitudes were much lower (by 67.9%) during swimming than during walking. However, the loading regime of the femur also changed between environments: torsional strains are high during walking, but torsion is largely eliminated during swimming. Changes in loading regime between environments may have enabled evolutionary shifts to hydrodynamically advantageous flattened limb bones in highly aquatic species. Although circular cross sections are optimal for resisting torsional loads, the removal of torsion would reduce the advantage of tubular shapes, facilitating the evolution of flattened limbs.
Hilliard Young, Vanessa K; Blob, Richard W. (2015), "Data from: Limb-bone loading in swimming turtles: changes in loading facilitate transitions from tubular to flipper-shaped limbs during aquatic invasions", Zenodo, doi: 10.5061/dryad.0jd3t