New pedal remains of Megaladapis and their functional significance

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1996 May;100(1):115-39. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-8644(199605)100:1<115::AID-AJPA11>3.0.CO;2-3.


New remains of Megaladapis from the caves within the Ankarana Range of northern Madagascar and the cave site of Ankilitelo near Toliara in southwestern Madagascar add considerably to the present sample of pedal remains for this genus. Here we describe and analyze the new pedal material and discuss the function of the Megaladapis foot in terms of positional behavior and substrate use. The northern specimens belong to the M. madagascariensis /M. grandidieri group in terms of size and morphology whereas the new southwestern fossils are assigned to M. madagascariensis. The new specimens demonstrate that the small and intermediate sized M. madagascariensis and M. grandidieri were very similar in anatomy and inferred locomotor function, findings that also support the prior suggestion that they belong to a single widespread subgenus (Megaladapis). The new fossils provide the first examples of many pedal elements and present the first opportunity to analyze the whole pedal complex from associated remains. The foot of Megaladapis is distinctive among primates in numerous features. Intrinsic proportions of the hindlimb indicate that the foot is relatively longer than that of any other primate. The first complete calcanei reveal a large and highly modified hindfoot. The calcaneus is reduced distally, indicating an emphasis on climbing over leaping or quadrupedal walking and running. Proximally, a large, medially directed calcaneal tuberosity suggests both a strong inversion component to plantarflexion and a well-developed abductor mechanism and recalls the calcaneal morphology of the larger lorisines in some respects. Talar shape is consistent with considerable tibial rotation during plantarflexion and dorsiflexion. The subtalar joint is designed to emphasize supination/pronation and medial/lateral rotation over proximodistal translation. The distal tarsals are extremely reduced in length, and they form a high transverse arch and a serial tarsus; this configuration promotes inversion/eversion at the transverse tarsal joint. The phalanges are long and moderately curved, and the hallux is very long, robust, and abducted. Pedal morphology suggests that Megaladapis (subgenus Megaladapis) was well adapted to exploit an arboreal environment.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcaneus / anatomy & histology
  • Calcaneus / physiology
  • Foot / anatomy & histology*
  • Foot / physiology*
  • Fossils*
  • Hindlimb / anatomy & histology
  • Hindlimb / physiology
  • Madagascar
  • Metatarsal Bones / anatomy & histology
  • Metatarsal Bones / physiology
  • Primates / anatomy & histology*
  • Primates / physiology*
  • Running / physiology
  • Talus / anatomy & histology
  • Talus / physiology
  • Walking / physiology