Plantigrady and foot adaptation in African apes: Implications for hominid origins



In living primates, except the great apes and humans, the foot is placed in a heel-elevated or semi-plantigrade position when these animals move upon arboreal or terrestrial substrates. Heel placement and bone positions in the non-great ape primate foot are designed to increase mobility and flexibility in the arboreal environment. Orangutans have further enhanced foot mobility by adapting their feet for suspension and thus similarly utilize foot positions where the heel does not touch the substrate. Chimpanzees and gorillas represent an alternative pattern (plantigrady), in which the heel contacts the surface of the support at the end of swing phase, especially during terrestrial locomotion. Thus, chimpanzees and gorillas possess feet adapted for both arboreal and terrestrial substrates. African apes also share several osteological features related to plantigrady and terrestrial locomotion with early hominids. From this analysis, it is apparent that hominid locomotor evolution passed through a quadrupedal terrestrial phase. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.