The evolution of the hallucial tarsometatarsal joint in the anthropoidea



Changes in the hallucial tarsometatarsal joint, which forms the fulcrum for the grasping hallux, have played a significant role in primate evolution. Comparative studies suggest that one of the morphological novelties heralding the attainment of a monkey grade of structure was the incorporation of the prehallux within this joint. Such a joint is found in the extant Ceboidea and, paradoxically, the Hylobatidae. Hallux and prehallux then form a composite distal articular surface; the proximal surface on the medial cuneiform is completed inferomedially by a convex facet for the prehallux. Divergence of the hallux into the attitude of opposition is accompanied by conjunct rotation, screwing these joint components into a stable, close-packed position. Suppression of the prehallux is accompanied by clear osteological indicators — the absence of prehallux facets on the first metatarsal and medial cuneiform. This modification of the joint is a feature of cercopithecoid evolution, and has also occurred in the hominoid line, after divergence of the ancestral gibbons and apparently after the Dryopithecus (Proconsul) stage. The cladistic relationships indicated by these morphological changes are in striking accord with recent results on primate evolution at the molecular level.