New insights into patterns of integration in the femur and pelvis among catarrhines

Am J Biol Anthropol. 2024 Mar 16:e24931. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.24931. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objectives: Integration reflects the level of coordinated variation of the phenotype. The integration of postcranial elements can be studied from a functional perspective, especially with regards to locomotion. This study investigates the link between locomotion, femoral structural properties, and femur-pelvis complex morphology.

Materials and methods: We measured (1) morphological integration between femoral and pelvic morphologies using geometric morphometrics, and (2) covariation between femoral/pelvic morphologies and femoral diaphyseal cross-sectional properties, which we defined as morpho-structural integration. Morphological and morpho-structural integration patterns were measured among humans (n = 19), chimpanzees and bonobos (n = 16), and baboons (n = 14), whose locomotion are distinct.

Results: Baboons show the highest magnitude of morphological integration and the lowest of morpho-structural integration. Chimpanzees and bonobos show intermediate magnitude of morphological and morpho-structural integration. Yet, body size seems to have a considerable influence on both integration patterns, limiting the interpretations. Finally, humans present the lowest morphological integration and the highest morpho-structural integration between femoral morphology and structural properties but not between pelvic morphology and femur.

Discussion: Morphological and morpho-structural integration depict distinct strategies among the samples. A strong morphological integration among baboon's femur-pelvis module might highlight evidence for long-term adaptation to quadrupedalism. In humans, it is likely that distinct selective pressures associated with the respective function of the pelvis and the femur tend to decrease morphological integration. Conversely, high mechanical loading on the hindlimbs during bipedal locomotion might result in specific combination of structural and morphological features within the femur.

Keywords: biomechanics; locomotion; morpho-structural integration; primates.