Muscle mass scaling in primates: an energetic and ecological perspective

Am J Primatol. 2012 May;74(5):395-407. doi: 10.1002/ajp.21990. Epub 2012 Feb 8.


Body composition is known to vary dramatically among mammals, even in closely related species, yet this issue has never been systematically investigated. Here, we examine differences in muscle mass scaling among mammals, and explore how primate body composition compares to that of nonprimate mammals. We use a literature-based sample of eutherian and metatherian mammals, and combine this with new dissection-based data on muscularity in a variety of strepsirrhine primates and the haplorhine, Tarsius syrichta. Our results indicate an isometric scaling relationship between total muscle mass and total body mass across mammals. However, we documented substantial variation in muscularity in mammals (21-61% of total body mass), which can be seen both within and between taxonomic groups. We also found that primates are under-muscled when compared to other mammals. This difference in body composition may in part reflect the functional consequences of arboreality, as arboreal species have significantly lower levels of muscularity than terrestrial species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Size
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mammals / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Primates / physiology*