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Abstract

In a previous study of the primate wrist joint the author has shown that this articulation is uniquely modified in the Pongidae by the interposition of a meniscus between the ulnar styloid process and the carpus. This meniscus (which in gibbons contains a bony lunula) partially isolates the ulnar styloid process in a proximal synovial compartment. The human wrist joint is clearly derived from such an articulation, the proximal synovial compartment persisting as the prestyloid recess. The present paper is concerned with observations on a wider range of hominoid material. A spectrum of variations is demonstrated, largely the result of a tendency for the neomorphic meniscus to be incorporated as an integral component of the proximal articular surface, thereby progressively excluding the ulnar styloid process from the wrist joint and constricting the entrance to the proximal synovial compartment. The unique construction of the hominoid wrist joint is considered to be a specialization facilitating pronation-supination. Such free rotatory movement is a necessary prerequisite for true brachiation, and the obvious phylogenetic implication is that Homo has shared a brachiating ancestry with the Pongidae. This is convincing evidence in favour of the view that a period of brachiation provided the essential apprenticeship for the complex locomotor activities of bipedal, tool-using man.