Ontogeny of long bone geometry in capuchin monkeys (Cebus albifrons and Cebus apella): implications for locomotor development and life history

Biol Lett. 2010 Apr 23;6(2):197-200. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0773. Epub 2009 Oct 28.


Studies of a diverse array of animals have found that young individuals often have robust bones for their body size (i.e. augmented cross-sectional dimensions), limiting fracture risk despite general musculoskeletal immaturity. However, previous research has focused primarily on precocial taxa (e.g. rodents, lagomorphs, bovids, goats and emu). In this study, we examined the ontogenetic scaling of humeral and femoral cross-sectional robusticity in a mixed-longitudinal sample of two slow-growing, behaviourally altricial capuchin monkeys. Results showed that, when regressed against biomechanically appropriate size variables (i.e. the product of body mass and bone length), humeral and femoral bending strengths generally scale with negative allometry, matching the scaling patterns observed in previous studies of more precocial mammals. Additionally, bone strength relative to predicted loads (e.g. 'safety factors') peaks at birth and rapidly decreases during postnatal growth, falling to less than 5 per cent of peak values by weaning age. We suggest that increased safety factors during early ontogeny may be an adaptation to mitigate injury from falling during initial locomotor efforts. Overall, the results presented here suggest that ontogenetic declines in relative long bone strength may represent a common pattern among mammals that is perhaps preadaptive for different purposes among different lineages.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Body Size
  • Bone Development / physiology*
  • Cebus / anatomy & histology
  • Cebus / growth & development*
  • Cebus / physiology
  • Femur / diagnostic imaging
  • Femur / growth & development*
  • Humerus / diagnostic imaging
  • Humerus / growth & development*
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Radiography
  • Regression Analysis
  • Species Specificity