The concept is simple:

  • I want to create a horse species, that are like the Superman of horses and can easily pull of acts, we've seen them done in movies.

One of the many steps in this is to create lighter bones for them with the same strength as their original version.
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Would it be possible to engineer (like a Civil engineer) a lighter microstructure, that replaces the compact bone, using the same materials (e.g: calcium, minerals, etc...) in it?

  • Tech level:
    • Quantum Supercomputers (for simulating complex organisms).
    • Plenty of information on genetic engineering. (and a "For Dummies" book, of course)
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What acts, as we've seen them done in movies, are you refering to? $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T Insanely high endurance, they can't trip over and fall, unless in combat, require minimum nutrition, etc... See, there are many holes to be filled in this creature concept. $\endgroup$ Commented May 31, 2017 at 19:47
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I don't quite understand how lighter bones leads to super-horses. Seems like it would simply lead to slightly-lighter horses. Perhaps you could expand on this a bit? $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ @user535733 Again, it's not the only "update" they receive. $\endgroup$ Commented May 31, 2017 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ It might help with flying horses. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 21:09

2 Answers 2


Certainly this is possible -- there are lots of metals that are stronger than bone for the same weight. Websearch turns up this article, "why are your bones not made of steel?", which concludes that there's not really a good reason. Quote:

The activation energies for oxidation and reduction of iron are of the order of 30-60KJ/mole, comparable to the figure of 57KJ/mole for ATP, a molecule which is commonly used for delivering energy around our bodies. We normally make iron from its ore at very high temperatures, because the rate-limiting process is diffusion in the solid state. But the body makes materials in a very different way, from the bottom up, atom by atom, molecule by molecule. And of course the fact is that you are already oxidizing and reducing iron inside your body all the time. Haemoglobin, which is the molecule that carries oxygen around in your blood, works by having a single Fe ion at its centre, whose oxidation state can be changed to allow the molecule to take up, or release, oxygen atoms.

(I speculate that maybe our ancestors didn't have access to ingestible iron in large enough quantities to make bone out of.)

So, yes, if you modified a horse enough, you could give it the ability to make and repair metal bones, and you could give it the ability to digest metal fast enough to make the bones out of it.

But at some point you have to ask: wouldn't it be easier to just build a robot horse?

  • $\begingroup$ This leads to thousands of more problems, like how can a horse ingest and digest iron without dying or expending too much energy? $\endgroup$ Commented May 31, 2017 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ Compared to the challenge of re-designing the entire genetic structure for bones to be optimized to use steel instead of calcium, a minor digestive tweak to process iron would be trivial. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ I've added a quote from the article about digesting iron. $\endgroup$
    – Dan B
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 23:48
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    $\begingroup$ He said «using the same materials», so metal bones are not an answer. That is, change the microstructure, not the material. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 4:47
  • $\begingroup$ When we eat foods that raise our body acidity like meat, fish, dairy, eggs and processed sugars our body takes a large quantity of calcium from our bones and uses it to reduce the acidity of the body.. I think that could be one reason our bones are made of calcium and not some stronger metal... $\endgroup$
    – Evi
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 9:45


Nature has already optomized the microstructure in how the composite is formed and the shapes of the internal structures and how they bear forces.

Furthermore, his is self-adjusting based on actual stresses carried as the bones maintain themselves, so material is applied only where it makes them stronger in the right direction.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ No, nature has found a balance between the energy requirements maintaining bones and required strength for daily activities. $\endgroup$
    – Firelight
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 14:07

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