Introduction: Ostrich characteristics include fast running, of which the probable enablers have been studied. Yet little research has taken place on one anatomical feature. It is mainly the special integuments on the ostrich foot which facilitate fast running on sand, because as point of direct sand contact they bear the whole weight and provide all the forward force. This study elucidates aspects of the integuments.
Material and Methods: A stereo microscope, scanning electron microscope (SEM), and confocal scanning laser microscope were used to observe these integuments. Their surface structure was shown accurately in photographs. An SEM equipped with energy dispersive spectroscopy was used to check element contents of the upper and bottom areas and those on the lateral area of the 3rd toe.
Results: The content of some chemical elements on the upper area (Mg 2.04%, Si 0.18%, P 1.97%, Ca 0.59%, and S 0.69%) was higher than that of the bottom area (Mg 0.14%, Si 0.09%, P 0.10%, Ca 0.28%, and S 0.90%). Zinc was the particular element on the upper area, while sodium, chlorine, and potassium were the specific elements on the bottom area. The parts which must withstand different frictions contained different chemical compounds.
Conclusion: The microscopic plane with layer-like structure and stripes may contribute to the wear-resistance of the papillae. The polygonal and prism structures are helpful to fix papillae in a firmer way.