Long bone articular and diaphyseal structure in old world monkeys and apes. I: locomotor effects

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2002 Dec;119(4):305-42. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.10117.


The relationship between locomotor behavior and long bone structural proportions is examined in 179 individuals and 13 species of hominoids and cercopithecoids. Articular surface areas, estimated from linear caliper measurements, and diaphyseal section moduli (strengths), determined from CT scans, were obtained for the femur, tibia, humerus, radius, and ulna. Both within-bone (articular to shaft) and between-bone (forelimb to hindlimb) proportions were calculated and compared between taxa. It was hypothesized that: 1) species emphasizing slow, cautious movement and/or more varied limb positioning (i.e., greater joint excursion) would exhibit larger articular to cross-sectional shaft proportions, and 2) species with more forelimb suspensory behavior would have relatively stronger/larger forelimbs, while those with more leaping would have relatively stronger/larger hindlimbs. The results of the analysis generally confirm both hypotheses. Several partial exceptions can be explained on the basis of more detailed structural-functional considerations. Associations between locomotion and structural proportions can be demonstrated both across major groupings (hominoids and cercopithecoids) and between relatively closely related taxa, e.g., mountain and lowland gorillas, siamangs and gibbons, and Trachypithecus and other colobines. Furthermore, structure and function do not always covary with taxonomy. For example, compared to cercopithecoids, mountain gorillas have relatively larger joints, like other hominoids, but do not have relatively stronger forelimbs, unlike other hominoids. This is consistent with a locomotor repertoire emphasizing relatively slow movement but with very little forelimb suspension. Proportions of Proconsul nyanzae, Proconsul heseloni, Morotopithecus bishopi, and Theropithecus oswaldi are compared with modern distributions to illustrate the application of the techniques to fossil taxa.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cercopithecidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Cercopithecidae / classification
  • Diaphyses / anatomy & histology*
  • Diaphyses / physiology
  • Female
  • Femur / anatomy & histology
  • Fossils
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Hominidae / classification
  • Humans
  • Humerus / anatomy & histology
  • Joints / anatomy & histology
  • Joints / physiology
  • Locomotion*
  • Male
  • Radius / anatomy & histology
  • Species Specificity
  • Tibia / anatomy & histology
  • Ulna / anatomy & histology