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Warped Finite Element Models Predict Whole Shell Failure In Turtle Shells

C. Stayton
Published 2018 · Computer Science, Medicine

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Finite element (FE) models have become increasingly popular in comparative biomechanical studies, with researchers continually developing methods such as ‘warping’ preexisting models to facilitate analyses. However, few studies have investigated how well FE models can predict biologically crucial whole‐structure performance or whether ‘warped’ models can provide useful information about the mechanical behavior of actual specimens. This study addresses both of these issues through a validation of warped FE models of turtle shells. FE models for 40 turtle specimens were built using 3D landmark coordinates and thin‐plate spline interpolations to warp preexisting turtle shell models. Each actual turtle specimen was loaded to failure, and the load at failure and mode of fracture were then compared with the behavior predicted by the models. Overall, the models performed very well, despite the fact that many simplifying assumptions were made for analysis. Regressions of observed on predicted loads were significant for the dataset as a whole, as well as in separate analyses within two turtle species, and the direction of fracture was generally consistent with the patterns of stresses observed in the models. This was true even when size (an important factor in determining strength) was removed from analyses – the models were also able to predict which shells would be relatively stronger or weaker. Although some residual variation remains unexplained, this study supports the idea that warped FE models run with simplifying assumptions at least can provide useful information for comparative biomechanical studies.
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