MicroCT imaging of red fox talus: a non-invasive approach to evaluate age at death
X-ray microCT imaging offers the possibility to study age-related changes of bone microstructure. In the present paper we analyse the talus of 15 modern red foxes of different ages, from 2 months old to adulthood, to investigate the possibility of identifying their different ages at death. Surface and volumetric variables describing bone properties are measured or evaluated from the microCT images following three approaches: (i) the bone volume to total volume ratio, quantified for the whole bones; (ii) two homologous subvolumes of trabecular tissue, virtually extracted and analysed to evaluate trabecular bone structure; and (iii) the development of the cortical region, deduced through the analysis of bone cross-sections. All approaches yielded interesting information on bone development, and preliminary results show that the third approach clearly allows us to discriminate among different age groups. This is important both from a zooarchaeological and a palaeontological perspective, suggesting that microCT imaging can be considered a new non-invasive tool to estimate the age at death of animal remains, or to discriminate taxa characterized by a close morphology but different adult body size.