Cortical and trabecular bone structure of the hominoid capitate

J Anat. 2021 Aug;239(2):351-373. doi: 10.1111/joa.13437. Epub 2021 May 4.


Morphological variation in the hominoid capitate has been linked to differences in habitual locomotor activity due to its importance in movement and load transfer at the midcarpal joint proximally and carpometacarpal joints distally. Although the shape of bones and their articulations are linked to joint mobility, the internal structure of bones has been shown experimentally to reflect, at least in part, the loading direction and magnitude experienced by the bone. To date, it is uncertain whether locomotor differences among hominoids are reflected in the bone microarchitecture of the capitate. Here, we apply a whole-bone methodology to quantify the cortical and trabecular architecture (separately and combined) of the capitate across bipedal (modern Homo sapiens), knuckle-walking (Pan paniscus, Pan troglodytes, Gorilla sp.), and suspensory (Pongo sp.) hominoids (n = 69). It is hypothesized that variation in bone microarchitecture will differentiate these locomotor groups, reflecting differences in habitual postures and presumed loading force and direction. Additionally, it is hypothesized that trabecular and cortical architecture in the proximal and distal regions, as a result of being part of mechanically divergent joints proximally and distally, will differ across these portions of the capitate. Results indicate that the capitate of knuckle-walking and suspensory hominoids is differentiated from bipedal Homo primarily by significantly thicker distal cortical bone. Knuckle-walking taxa are further differentiated from suspensory and bipedal taxa by more isotropic trabeculae in the proximal capitate. An allometric analysis indicates that size is not a significant determinate of bone variation across hominoids, although sexual dimorphism may influence some parameters within Gorilla. Results suggest that internal trabecular and cortical bone is subjected to different forces and functional adaptation responses across the capitate (and possibly other short bones). Additionally, while separating trabecular and cortical bone is normal protocol of current whole-bone methodologies, this study shows that when applied to carpals, removing or studying the cortical bone separately potentially obfuscates functionally relevant signals in bone structure.

Keywords: cancellous bone; functional morphology; locomotion; primates; wrist.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anisotropy
  • Biometry
  • Cancellous Bone / anatomy & histology*
  • Cancellous Bone / diagnostic imaging
  • Capitate Bone / anatomy & histology*
  • Capitate Bone / diagnostic imaging
  • Cortical Bone / anatomy & histology*
  • Cortical Bone / diagnostic imaging
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • X-Ray Microtomography