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Advanced Courses in Life Sciences

4th Edition

Introduction to Functional Morphology and Biomechanics

January 11th-15th, 2016, Barcelona (Spain)

Functional Morphology

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Introduction to Functional Morphology and Biomechanics

This workshop aims to give the participants the ability to use the interdisciplinary approach of biomechanics, especially (but not only) through examples in palaeontology. Simple models based on the basic principles of classical physics will be used to infer the life history of extinct vertebrates.


Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP)

C/ de l’Escola Industrial, 23
08201 Sabadell, Barcelona (Spain)

How to get there




40 hours on-site.

This course is equivalent to 2 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) at the Life Science Zurich Graduate School.

The recognition of ECTS by other institutions depends on each university or school.


Places are limited to 20 participants and will be occupied by strict registration order.

Participants who have completed the course will receive a certificate at the end of it.


Jordi Marcé-Nogué instructor for Transmitting Science

Dr. Jordi Marcé-Nogué
Universität Hamburg

Richard Fariña instructor for Transmitting Science

Dr. Richard Fariña
Universidad de la República

Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno instructor at Transmitting Science

Dr. Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno
Transmitting Science

Pere Ibáñez-Gimeno instructor for Transmitting Science

Dr. Pere Ibáñez-Gimeno
University of Cambridge
United Kingdom


Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno instructor at Transmitting Science

Dr. Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno
Transmitting Science


Graduate or postgraduate degree in any Sciences discipline, basic knowledge of statistics and personal computers. All participants must bring their own personal laptop (Windows, Macintosh, Linux).


Monday, January 11th, 2016. Dr. Jordi Marcé-Nogué.

1. Statics: Vector notation, force, moment, work, energy, Newton laws, levers, free body diagram and equilibrium. Exercises.

2. Beam Theory: Equilibrium in the cross-section of a beam, laws and diagrams. Exercises.

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016. Dr. Jordi Marcé-Nogué.

3. Elasticity in Beams: Axial forces, Bending, Shear and Torsion.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016. Dr. Richard Fariña.

4. Basic principles.

  • Mass (concept and units), force (units, special case: Weight), pressure (concept, units), energy (units, forms of energy: Potential, kinetic, elastic), power (units, example: Metabolic rate).
  • Conditions of equilibrium: Forces and moments. Mechanical advantage. Biological examples.
  • Practical session: Measurements in ulnas to assess the extention of the forearm in mammals.
  • Biological materials, function and properties: Stress, strain, elastic modulus. Factor of safety, examples in biology.

5. Mastication in vertebrates.

  • Transition from reptiles to mammals, the problem of the resultant in the craniomandibular joint region.
  • Terrestrial locomotion and athleticism in tetrapods.
  • Beam theory applied to the long bones of the extremities in parasagittal terrestrial vertebrates.
  • Second moment of area, section modulus, strength indicator.
  • Examples in reconstructing habits in extinct vertebrates.

Thursday, January 14th, 2016. Dr. Richard Fariña and Dr. Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno.

6. Scale and allometry.

  • Dynamic similarity.
  • Froude number, origin of the concept and application to terrestrial locomotion.
  • Geometric similarity, isometry and allometry.
  • The importance of body size. Metabolic rate, athleticism and skin features.
  • Scale and allometry. Geometric and elastic similarities.
  • Body mass estimation: 3D reconstruction, regression, principal components analysis, centroid size (Geometric Morphometrics). Percent of prediction error. Mean and medium values.
  • Practical session: Comparison of body mass estimations with different methods.

Friday, January 15th, 2016. Dr. Pere Ibáñez-Gimeno.

7. Entheseal changes.

  • Definition, types, morphological variation and etiology. Entheseal changes and their dependence on activity. Terminology.
  • Entheseal development: Description vs. quantification. Scoring systems: Criteria to grade the entheseal changes using different methods. Intraobserver and interobserver tests.
  • Practical session: Grading entheseal changes in human bones and comparison with other animals. Statistical treatment of the data.
  • Statistical analyses to deduce activity patterns: Aggregation and functional groups. Comparisons between populations, sexual dimorphism and bilateral asymmetry. Multifactorial analyses.
  • Examples of studies inferring activity patterns from entheseal changes. Further applications: Activity-dependence of morphological characteristics. New approaches: 3D laser scanning and fractal analysis.

8. Cross-sectional properties.

  • Previous considerations: Wolff’s Law and bone functional adaptation. Types of mechanical loadings. Rigidity and strength. Definition and biomechanical meaning of cross-sectional properties: Cross-sectional areas, second moments of area, section moduli and shape variables.
  • Obtaining images of diaphyseal sections: Sections of interest and orientation of bones. Methods to obtain the images: Broken or cut sections, CT scanning, latex cast method and ellipse model method. Relevance of the outer and the inner contours. Scale.
  • Practical session: Obtaining the outer contour from 3D images. Reconstruction of the inner contour from biplanar radiographs. Calculation of cross-sectional properties. Statistical treatment of the data.
  • Size standardization for cross-sectional properties.
  • Statistical analyses to deduce activity patterns. Comparisons between populations, sexual dimorphism and bilateral asymmetry.
  • Relationship between entheseal changes and cross-sectional properties.


General Biomechanics:

  • Fariña FA (1995) Limb bone strength and habits in large glyptodonts. Lethaia, 28: 189-196.
  • Fariña RA, Blanco RE (1996) Megatherium, the stabber. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 263: 1725-1729.
  • Fariña RA, Vizcaíno SF, Blanco RE (1997) Scaling of the Indicator of Athletic Capability in fossil and extant land tetrapods. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 185: 441-446.
  • Alexander RM, Fariña RA, Vizcaíno SF (1999) Tail blow energy and carapace fractures in a large glyptodont (Mammalia, Xenarthra). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 126: 41-49.
  • Vizcaíno SF, Fariña RA, Mazzetta GV (1999) Ulnar dimensions and fossoriality in armadillos. Acta Theriologica, 44: 309.
  • Alexander RM (2003) Modelling approaches in biomechanics. Phil Trans R Soc Lond B, 358: 1429-1435.
  • Alexander RM, Animal mechanics, Blackwell Scientific Publications.

Scale, Allometry and Body Mass Estimation:

  • De Esteban-Trivigno S, Mendoza M, De Renzi M (2008) Body mass estimation in Xenarthra: Predictive equations suitable for all quadrupedal terrestrial placentals? Journal of Morphology, 269: 1276-1293.
  • Henderson DH (2010) Estimating the masses and centers of mass of extinct animals by 3D mathematical slicing. Paleobiolgy, 25 (1): 88-106.
  • De Esteban-Trivigno S, Köhler M (2011) New equations for body mass estimation in bovids: Testing some procedures when constructing regression functions. Mammalian Biology, 76 (6): 755-761.

Entheseal Changes and Cross-Sectional Properties:

  • Hawkey DE, Merbs CF (1995) Activity-induced musculoskeletal stress markers (MSM) and subsistence strategy changes among ancient Hudson Bay eskimos. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 5: 324-338.
  • Ruff CB (2000) Biomechanical analyses of archaeological human skeletons. Biological Anthropology of the Human Skeleton, Pages 71-102 in Katzenberg MA, Saunders SR, eds. Wiley-Liss. New York.
  • O’Neill MC, Ruff CB (2004) Estimating human long bone cross-sectional geometric properties: A comparison of noninvasive methods. Journal of Human Evolution, 47: 221-235.
  • Galtés I, Rodríguez-Baeza A, Malgosa A (2006) Mechanical morphogenesis: A concept applied to the surface of the radius. The Anatomical Record, 288: 794-805.
  • Ruff CB, Holt B, Trinkaus E (2006) Who’s afraid of the big bad wolff? “Wolff’s law” and bone functional adaptation. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 129: 484-498.
  • Shaw CN, Stock JT (2009) Habitual throwing and swimming correspond with upper limb diaphyseal strength and shape in modern human athletes. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 140: 160-172.
  • Villotte S, Castex D, Couallier V, Dutour O, Knüsel CJ, Henry-Gambier D (2010) Enthesopathies as occupational stress markers: Evidence from the upper limb. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 142: 224-234.
  • Davies TG, Shaw CN, Stock JT (2012) A test of a new method and software for the rapid estimation of cross-sectional geometric properties of long bone diaphyses from 3D laser surface scans. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 4: 277-290.
  • Ibáñez-Gimeno P, Galtés I, Jordana X, Fiorin E, Manyosa J, Malgosa A (2012) Entheseal changes and functional implications of the humeral medial epicondyle. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 23: 211-220.
  • Ibáñez-Gimeno P, De Esteban-Trivigno S, Jordana X, Manyosa J, Malgosa A, Galtés I (2013) Functional plasticity of the human humerus: Shape, rigidity and muscular entheses. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 150: 609-617.

Previous editions of this course

4th Edition, January 11th-15th, 2016

Course Introduction to Functional Morphology and Biomechanics - 4th Edition, January 11th-15th, 2016Nine people belonging to the following countries and institutions participated in this edition:

  • France: Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle.
  • United States of America: Texas A&M University, City University of New York, George Washington University.
  • United Kingdom: University of Manchester, University of St Andrews.
  • Italy: University of Roma “La Sapienza”.

3rd Edition, January 13th-15th, 2014

Course Introduction to Functional Morphology and Biomechanics - 3rd Edition, January 13th-15th, 2014Eight people belonging to the following countries and institutions participated in this edition:

  • Sweden: Uppsala University.
  • United States of America: University of Missouri.
  • Spain: Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont.
  • Ireland: Institute of Technology Sligo.
  • Germany: Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment – Eberhard Karls University Tübingen.

2nd Edition, January 14th-18th, 2013

Course Introduction to Functional Morphology and Biomechanics - 2nd Edition, January 14th-18th, 2013Eleven people belonging to the following countries and institutions participated in this edition:

  • Germany: Hamburg University.
  • Spain: Autonomous University of Madrid, Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont, Universdad de La Rioja, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
  • Czech Republic: Charles University in Prague.
  • United Kingdom: University of Liverpool.
  • Luxembourg: Public Research Centre Henri Tudor.


  • Course Fee
  • Early bird (until November 30th, 2015):
  • 420
  • Regular (after November 30th, 2015):
  • 590
  • This includes course material, coffee breaks and lunches.
    (VAT included)

20 % discount will be applied to your fee If you belong to any of the Institutions listed HERE. Discounts (see Funding below) are not cumulative and apply only on the fee.

We offer the possibility of paying in two instalments (contact the course coordinator).


The course will take place in the city of Sabadell, Barcelona (Spain). Take a look at the venue.

You may stay in Barcelona city or Sabadell. You will find information about Hotels and Hostel in Sabadell here. It takes about 45 minutes by public transport to arrive to Sabadell from the centre of Barcelona city. The place of the course is about 15 minutes walking from the train stop.



Former participants will have a 5 % discount on the Course Fee.

Furthermore, a 20 % discount on the Course Fee is offered for members of some organizations (Organizations with discount). If you want to apply to this discount please indicate it in the Registration form (proof will be asked later).

Unemployed scientists living in Spain, as well as PhD students based in Spain without any grant or scholarship to develop their PhD, could benefit from a 40 % discount on the Course Fee. If you want to ask for this discount, please contact the course coordinator. That would apply for a maximum of 2 places and they will be covered by strict inscription order.

Discounts are not cumulative and apply only on the fee, not to Accommodation Package or other options.


Course Schedule
Monday, January 11th through Friday, January 15th, 20169:30 to 13:30 Lessons.
13:30 to 15:00 Lunch.
15:00 to 19:00 Lessons.

There will be two coffee breaks each day, halfway through each lesson session.

The schedule is approximate; it is possible that the content of one day may run into the next and a working day may be longer than advertised.


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