Drifting osteons were followed longitudinally through the cortex of human and baboon long bones using serial sections. Direction of transverse drift was recorded at different cross-sectional levels of the same systems, and maximum angular change in drift direction was measured for each system. Most drifting osteons exhibit: (1) substantial (∼90°) variation in the direction of transverse drift along their longitudinal axes, (2) intermittent regions of concentric (type I) morphology, and (3) change in drift direction over time, evident at single cross-sectional levels. Additionally, 3-dimensional reconstruction reveals that the basic multicellular units (BMUs) responsible for creating drifting osteons are morphologically distinct from the cutting-cone–closing-cone model BMUs that produce other types of osteons. The stimulus involved in the activation and guidance of drifting BMUs is unclear, but it is likely that the complex strain environment experienced by long bone cortices exerts a significant influence on their morphology.

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