Morphological and functional differentiation in the lumbar spine of lorisids and galagids

Am J Primatol. 2007 Jan;69(1):86-102. doi: 10.1002/ajp.20329.


The striking contrast in positional behavior exhibited by lorisids (slow quadrupedalism/suspension) and galagids (leaping/quadrupedalism) is well reflected in their postcranial morphology, particularly in the limbs. Although they exhibit very different spinal postures and movements, vertebral adaptations have been less well explored in these taxa. This study addressed morphological and functional differentiation in the lumbar vertebrae of four species of lorisids and five species of galagids. Linear and angular measurements of lumbar vertebrae were compared among taxa using canonical variates analysis (CVA) in conjunction with pairwise comparisons among selected variables. The results were interpreted in the context of a broader comparative sample, including the addition of indriids to the CVA. Compared to galagids, lorisids have relatively shorter lumbar spinous processes that are more perpendicularly (to caudally) oriented relative to a coronal plane. Lorisids also have relatively wider laminae and more transversely oriented prezygapophyses. These features promote lumbar stability and reflect antipronogrady, multiplane spinal movements, and upside-down suspension. Within lorisids, vertebral body length and height vary with body size, reflecting the additional resistance to bending that is required for larger body sizes. Galagid lumbar shape is influenced by body size, but does not show strong variation in accordance with positional behavior differences as defined here. Galagids, indriids, and lorisids are distinct in lumbar morphology and function, but their similarities in lumbar length reduction are suggestive of antipronograde postures in the common ancestor of the galagids, including those who have shifted to a more quadrupedal locomotor repertoire.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Size / physiology*
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / anatomy & histology*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Strepsirhini / anatomy & histology*
  • Strepsirhini / physiology