This study examines Harris lines' (HL) association to nutritional status and bone growth velocity, as well as the effects of nutrition in long bone growth and maturation. Forty-five New Zealand white rabbits were divided into: Control (C), Experimental-1 (E-1; moderately undernourished), and Experimental-2 (E-2; periodically fasted). Growth variables included: weight, length of the upper right forelimb (UPRFL), bone length, and bone growth velocity of the right humerus. The Total number of Harris lines, as well as the number of New Harris lines formed were also analyzed.
Statistically significant differences among the groups were identified for weight, and UPRFL, between C and E-1, and between E-1 and E-2. Although statistically nonsignificant, the small lag in epiphyseal fusion, and shorter bone length among E-1 rabbits, suggest that moderate undernutrition slowed bone growth and maturation. A comparable final bone length among the groups was, however, attained through canalization of bone growth velocity.
Total number of HL and New HL values were similar among the groups. A detailed analysis, however, revealed a statistically significant lower mean number of Total HL, by the end of the study, among E-1 rabbits. The differences among the groups probably resulted from an increased resorption of HL among E-1.
No linear relation was identified between Total or New HL and bone growth velocity (p>.05), but more HL were formed during periods of rapid growth (p<.05). The absence of a linear association between bone growth velocity and HL can be explained by the variability in growth pulse amplitude. A higher frequency of HL during periods of rapid growth, on the other hand, is most likely the result of an increased frequency in saltatory events at those times.
Other studies have also shown that neither nutritional status, nor stature or bone length are associated with HL. Harris lines are a poor stress marker, likely to appear in the absence of stress, and prone to resorption. Intrinsic limitations to paleopathological studies can be overcome by using multiple stress markers, but even the most careful attentiveness to multiple stress markers and cultural contexts will go amiss if the markers used are unreliable.