The cross-sectional geometry of the hand and foot bones of the hominoidea and its relationship to locomotor behavior

J Hum Evol. 2005 Dec;49(6):743-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2005.08.002. Epub 2005 Oct 10.


Cheiridia are valuable indicators of positional behavior, as they directly contact the substrate, but systematic comparison of the structural properties of both metacarpals and metatarsals has never been carried out. Differences in locomotor behavior among the great apes (knuckle-walking vs. quadrumanous climbing) can produce biomechanical differences that may be elucidated by the parallel study of cross-sectional characteristics of metacarpals and metatarsals. The aim of this work is to study the cross-sectional geometric properties of these bones and their correlation with locomotor behavior in large-bodied hominoids. The comparisons between bending moments of metacarpals and metatarsals of the same ray furnished interesting results. Metacarpals III and especially IV of the knuckle-walking African apes were relatively stronger than those of humans and orangutans, and metatarsal V of humans was relatively stronger than those of the great apes. Interestingly, the relative robusticity of the metacarpal IV of the quadrumanous orangutan was between that of the African apes and that of humans. The main conclusions of the study are: 1) cross-sectional dimensions of metacarpals and metatarsals are influenced by locomotor modes in great apes and humans; 2) interlimb comparisons of cross-sectional properties of metacarpals and metatarsals are good indicators of locomotor modes in great apes and humans; and 3) the results of this study are in accord with those of previous analyses of plantar pressure and morphofunctional traits of the same bones, and with behavioral studies. These results provide a data base from which it will be possible to compare the morphology of the fossils in order to gain insight into the locomotor repertoires of extinct taxa.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anatomy, Cross-Sectional
  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Body Size
  • Female
  • Foot Bones / anatomy & histology*
  • Forelimb / anatomy & histology
  • Fossils*
  • Hand Bones / anatomy & histology*
  • Hindlimb / anatomy & histology
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Locomotion*
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Metacarpal Bones / anatomy & histology
  • Metatarsal Bones / anatomy & histology
  • Pongo pygmaeus