Stress distribution in the bonobo ( Pan paniscus) trapeziometacarpal joint during grasping

PeerJ. 2021 Oct 1;9:e12068. doi: 10.7717/peerj.12068. eCollection 2021.


The primate thumb plays a central role in grasping and the basal trapeziometacarpal (TMC) joint is critical to its function. The TMC joint morphology varies across primates, yet little is known about form-function interaction within in the TMC joint. The purpose of this study was to investigate how stress distributions within the joint differ between five grasping types commonly employed by bonobos (Pan paniscus). Five cadaveric bonobo forearms were CT scanned in five standardized positions of the hand as a basis for the generation of parametric finite element models to compare grasps. We have developed a finite element analysis (FEA) approach to investigate stress distribution patterns in the TMC joint associated with each grasp type. We hypothesized that the simulated stress distributions for each position would correspond with the patterns expected from a saddle-shaped joint. However, we also expected differences in stress patterns arising from instraspecific variations in morphology. The models showed a high agreement between simulated and expected stress patterns for each of the five grasps (86% of successful simulations), while partially (52%) and fully (14%) diverging patterns were also encountered. We identified individual variations of key morphological features in the bonobo TMC joint that account for the diverging stress patterns and emphasized the effect of interindividual morphological variation on joint functioning. This study gives unprecedented insight in the form-function interactions in the TMC joint of the bonobo and provides an innovative FEA approach to modelling intra-articular stress distributions, a valuable tool for the study of the primate thumb biomechanics.

Keywords: Bonobo; Carpometacarpal joint; Finite element; Joint morphology; Pan paniscus; Stress distribution; Trapeziometacarpal joint.

Grant support

This work was supported by the KU Leuven (no. RQ1-D1114-C14/16/082) and the Research Foundation Flanders (no. V415519N). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.