The Locomotion of Babakotia Radofilai Inferred From Epiphyseal and Diaphyseal Morphology of the Humerus and Femur

J Morphol. 2016 Sep;277(9):1199-218. doi: 10.1002/jmor.20569. Epub 2016 Jun 20.

Abstract

Palaeopropithecids, or "sloth lemurs," are a diverse clade of large-bodied Malagasy subfossil primates characterized by their inferred suspensory positional behavior. The most recently discovered genus of the palaeopropithecids is Babakotia, and it has been described as more arboreal than Mesopropithecus, but less than Palaeopropithecus. In this article, the within-bone and between-bones articular and cross-sectional diaphyseal proportions of the humerus and femur of Babakotia were compared to extant lemurs, Mesopropithecus and Palaeopropithecus in order to further understand its arboreal adaptations. Additionally, a sample of apes and sloths (Choloepus and Bradypus) are included as functional outgroups composed of suspensory adapted primates and non-primates. Results show that Babakotia and Mesopropithecus both have high humeral/femoral shaft strength proportions, similar to extant great apes and sloths and indicative of forelimb suspensory behavior, with Babakotia more extreme in this regard. All three subfossil taxa have relatively large femoral heads, also associated with suspension in modern taxa. However, Babakotia and Mesopropithecus (but not Palaeopropithecus) have relatively small femoral head surface area to shaft strength proportions suggesting that hind-limb positioning in these taxa during climbing and other behaviors was different than in extant great apes, involving less mobility. Knee and humeral articular dimensions relative to shaft strengths are small in Babakotia and Mesopropithecus, similar to those found in modern sloths and divergent from those in extant great apes and lemurs, suggesting more sloth-like use of these joints during locomotion. Mesopropithecus and Babakotia are more similar to Choloepus in humerofemoral head and length proportions while Palaeopropithecus is more similar to Bradypus. These results provide further evidence of the suspensory adaptations of Babakotia and further highlight similarities to both extant suspensory primates and non-primate slow arboreal climbers and hangers. J. Morphol. 277:1199-1218, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: antipronograde; cross-sectional geometry; palaeopropithecids; sloth lemurs; suspensory adaptations.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epiphyses / anatomy & histology
  • Femur / anatomy & histology*
  • Fossils
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology
  • Humerus / anatomy & histology*
  • Lemur / anatomy & histology*
  • Locomotion*
  • Sloths / anatomy & histology