The tail tendons from wallabies (Macropus rufogriseus) suffer creep rupture at stresses of 10 MPa or above, whereas their yield stress in a dynamic test is about 144 MPa. At stresses between 20 and 80 MPa, the time-to-rupture decreases exponentially with stress, but at 10 MPa, the lifetime is well above this exponential. For comparison, the stress on a wallaby tail tendon, when its muscle contracts isometrically, is about 13.5 MPa. Creep lifetime depends sharply on temperature and on specimen length, in contrast to strength and stiffness as observed in dynamic tests. The creep curve (strain versus time) can be considered as a combination of primary creep (decelerating strain) and tertiary creep (accelerating strain). Primary creep is non-damaging, but tertiary creep is accompanied by accumulating damage, with loss of stiffness and strength. 'Damage' is quantitatively defined as the fractional loss of stiffness. A creep theory is developed in which the whole of tertiary creep and, in particular, the creep lifetime are predicted from measurements made at the onset of creep, when the tendon is undamaged. This theory is based on a 'damage hypothesis', which can be stated as: damaged material no longer contributes to stiffness and strength, whereas intact material makes its full contribution to both.
Wallaby tail tendons fail after repeated application of stresses much lower than would be needed to break them in a single pull. We show that this a fatigue phenomenon, distinct from the creep rupture that occurs after prolonged application of a constant stress. The two phenomena are disctinguished by experiments in which tensile stress is cycled at different frequencies, ranging from 1 to 50 Hz.