Distribution, structure, and mineralization of calcified cartilage remnants in hard antlers

Uwe Kierdorf*, Stuart R. Stock, Santiago Gomez, Olga Antipova, Horst Kierdorf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Antlers are paired deciduous bony cranial appendages of deer that undergo a regular cycle of growth, death and casting, and constitute the most rapidly growing bones in mammals. Antler growth occurs in an appositional mode and involves a modified form of endochondral ossification. In endochondral bones, calcified cartilage is typically a transient tissue that is eventually completely replaced by bone tissue. We studied the distribution and characteristics of calcified cartilage in hard antlers from three deer species (Capreolus capreolus, Cervus elaphus, Dama dama), i.e., in antlers from which the skin (velvet) had been shed. Remnants of calcified cartilage were regularly present as part of the trabecular framework in the late formed, distal antler portions in all three species, whereas this tissue was largely or completely missing in the more proximal antler portions. The presence of calcified cartilage remnants in the distal antler portions is attributed to the limited antler lifespan of only a few months, which is also the reason for the virtual lack of bone remodeling in antlers. The calcified cartilage matrix was more highly mineralized than the antler bone matrix. Mineralized deposits were observed in some chondrocyte lacunae and occasionally also in osteocyte lacunae, a phenomenon that has not previously been reported in antlers. Using synchrotron radiation-induced X-ray fluorescence (SR-XRF) mapping, we further demonstrated increased zinc concentrations in cement lines, along the inner borders of incompletely formed primary osteons, along the walls of partly or completely mineral-occluded chondrocyte and osteocyte lacunae, and in intralacunar mineralized deposits. The present study demonstrates that antlers are a promising model for studying the mineralization of cartilage and bone matrices and the formation of mineralized deposits in chondrocyte and osteocyte lacunae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101571
JournalBone Reports
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Antlers
  • Biological mineralization
  • Bone
  • Calcified cartilage
  • Endochondral ossification
  • Intralacunar mineralized deposits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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