Calcaneal elongation and bone strength in leaping galagids

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2020 Mar;171(3):430-438. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.23970. Epub 2019 Nov 11.


Objectives: Small-bodied vertical clinging and leaping primates have elongated calcanei which enhance leap performance by optimizing leap velocity, distance, and acceleration, but at the expense of experiencing relatively large forces during takeoff and landing. This study tests the hypothesis that the elongated calcaneus of leaping galagids is adapted to resist larger and more stereotyped bending loads compared to more quadrupedal galagids.

Materials and methods: The calcanei of 14 individuals of Otolemur and 14 individuals of Galago (three species of each genus) were μCT scanned. Calcaneal cross-sectional properties (maximum and minimum second moments of area and polar section modulus) were obtained from a slice representing the 50% position of bone segment length and dimensionless ratios were created for each variable using calcaneal cuboid facet area as a proxy for body mass.

Results: There were no significant differences in size-adjusted bending strength between Galago and Otolemur. Galago exhibited more elliptically shaped calcaneal cross sections, however, suggesting that its calcanei are more adapted to stereotyped loading regimes than those of Otolemur.

Discussion: The results suggest that the calcaneus of specialized leapers is adapted to more stereotyped loading patterns. The lack of predicted bone strength differences between Galago and Otolemur may be related to body size differences between these taxa, or it may indicate that loads encountered by Galago during naturalistic leaping are not reflected in the available experimental force data.

Keywords: ankle; cross-sectional geometry; leaping; locomotion; primate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Calcaneus / growth & development*
  • Cortical Bone / physiology*
  • Female
  • Galagidae / physiology*
  • Galago / physiology
  • Male
  • Species Specificity