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Keywords:

  • locomotion;
  • joint angles;
  • kinematic analysis;
  • primates;
  • Hominoidea;
  • Gorilla gorilla gorilla;
  • Hylobates concolor gabriellae;
  • Pan paniscus;
  • Pongo pygmaeus abelii

Abstract

Vertical climbing has played an important role in theories about the evolution of habitual bipedalism in early hominids and of locomotor specialization in hominoids. However, empirical data on vertical climbing in nonhuman primates are scarce, especially regarding kinematics. In this paper, the kinematics of flexed-elbow vertical climbing of four hominoid species are reported: western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), bonobos (Pan paniscus), Sumatran orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus abelii), and yellow-cheeked crested gibbons (Hylobates concolor gabriellae). The climbing sequences were recorded simultaneously by four digital video cameras in European zoos. Analyzed parameters include intersegmental flexion/extension angles of the shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee joints, horizontal abduction/adduction angles of the upper arm and thigh, and distance of the body center of gravity from the substrate. Analyses reveal that differences in climbing kinematics between individuals of different age/sex classes of one species are mostly size-related, whereas interspecific differences reflect specific locomotor adaptations. The climbing kinematics of bonobos and gorillas are more similar to each other than to those of orangutans or gibbons. The range of motion of the major limb joints in adult orangutans is larger than in African apes, although the hip is not more extended. Gibbons horizontally abduct the arm more and the thigh less during climbing than any of the great apes. These results allow us to question some qualitative descriptions of vertical climbing kinematics reported in the literature, and to discuss implications for the evolution of locomotor adaptations in hominoids. Am J Phys Anthropol 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.