• Indices;
  • Foot skeleton;
  • Locomotor and substrate specializations


The traditional focus on morphological rather than mechanical units has obscured some significant functional differences in the hindlimbs of primates. This paper examines the allometric and biomechanical basis for some distinctive proportional differences among pairs of morphological units in the hindlimb, and especially the foot, of cercopithecid primates. Five major conclusions are reached. First, many hindlimb dimensions scale allometrically with body mass to maintain mechanical similarity within taxonomic and locomotor groups. Therefore, the majority of traditional indices which describe the shape of the foot within cercopithecids reveal differences which are primarily a function of size. Second, the hindlimb segments in colobines, and especially in Presbytis, are relatively long, probably to enhance leaping. Third, the major distinction of terrestrial cercopithecines among the features analysed is reduction in the length of the phalanges, due to the reduced importance of grasping during locomotion and the assumption of digitigrady. Fourth, Theropithecus and male Erythrocebus have high crural indices, relative to their body masses, which can facilitate cursoriality. Female E. patas already has a high crural index as a function of its body mass. Fifth, macaques form a distinctive group among cercopithecines, characterized by relatively short hindlimbs. Relatively very short hindlimbs in Macaca fuscata and M. thibetana suggest that climatic conditions can have an added effect on the lengths of the hindlimb segments. In summary, this analysis of the lengths of the hindlimb segments relative to body size reveals taxonomic differences which are due in part to phylogeny, to differences in locomotor behavior, and to substrate use.