Functional aspects of primate pelvic structure: A multivariate approach



This study aims to clarify the relationship of primate bony pelvic structure to locomotor habit. As with most of the postcranial skeleton, the pelvic bones of species within the Ceboidea and the Cercopithecoidea are remarkably similar visually except for variations in size. Yet there are substantial differences in locomotor pattern between the species in these taxa. I performed canonical analyses on a sample of 17 pelvic variables describing 22 primate species of the Ceboidea, the Cercopithecoidea, and the Hominoidea to discover which variables were significant in separating them into groups. In both analyses there was good separation of major taxa and additional separation of groups that differed in locomotor habit. The separation of colobine from cercopithecine monkeys was particularly consistent.

In the analysis, including all 22 species, the variables given particular weight by the canonical analysis were the same as those traditionally used by anatomists for the same purpose. Specifically, breadth of the ischial tuberosity (reflecting presence or absence of ischial callosities) separated the Old from the New World monkeys. Breadth of the iliac tuberosity, in which man and to some extent other hominoids differ from other primates, and ilium height, in which man differs from other primates, were significant. Sagittal diameter of the pelvis was also substantially weighted.

Having established that the technique would select variables of anatomical significance, the same method was applied to a study of monkeys only where the characteristics that differ between groups are not well established. Breadth of the ischial tuberosity was again important in separating the Ceboidea from the Cercopithecoidea. Discrimination of locomotor groups within these large divisions was brought about mainly by ischial length and the sagittal diameter of the pelvis. In studying these variables and their relationship to size in greater detail, it was found that among cercopithecoid monkeys, the colobines showed relatively lower values than did cercopithecines for both these dimensions. Atelines showed low values for ischial length but high values for the sagittal pelvic diameter. Biomechanical explanations of these observations are suggested.