Biomechanical analysis of vertical climbing in the spider monkey and the Japanese macaque

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2000 Dec;113(4):455-72. doi: 10.1002/1096-8644(200012)113:4<455::AID-AJPA2>3.0.CO;2-C.


Climbing is one of the most important components of primate locomotor modes. We previously reported that the kinesiological characteristics of vertical climbing by the spider monkey and Japanese macaque are clearly different, based on their kinetics and kinematics. In this study, a more detailed analysis using inverse dynamics was conducted to estimate the biomechanical characteristics of vertical climbing in the spider monkey and Japanese macaque. One of the main findings was the difference in forelimb use by the two species. The results of a joint moment analysis and estimates of muscular force indicate that the spider monkey uses its forelimbs to keep the body close to the substrate, rather than to generate propulsion. The forelimb of the Japanese macaque, on the other hand, likely contributes more to propulsion. This supports the idea that "forelimb-hindlimb differentiation" is promoted in the spider monkey. The estimated muscular force also suggests that the spider monkey type of climbing could develop the hindlimb extensor muscles, which are important in bipedal posture and walking. As a result, we conclude that the spider monkey type of climbing could be functionally preadaptive for human bipedalism. This type of climbing would develop the hip and knee extensor muscles, and result in more extended lower limb joints, a more erect trunk posture, and more functionally differentiated fore- and hindlimbs, all of which are important characteristics of human bipedalism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cebidae / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Female
  • Forelimb / physiology
  • Hindlimb / physiology
  • Humans
  • Joints / physiology
  • Macaca / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*