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Keywords:

  • Proconsul;
  • Torso;
  • Vertebrae;
  • Pelvis;
  • Locomotion;
  • Miocene;
  • Catarrhine

Abstract

A new partial skeleton of Proconsul nyanzae from Mfangano Island, Kenya (KNM-MW 13142) includes five lumbar vertebrae, a partial sacrum, and nearly complete hipbone. Until recently, little was known of the axial and pelvic skeletons of Proconsul, or any early Miocene hominoid. Because torso morphology directly reflects locomotor behavior, these elements provide important new information about posture and locomotion of P. nyanzae. Two basic patterns of locomotor behavior and corresponding torso morphology exist among extant anthropoids. Monkeys have long, flexible spines with powerful epaxial muscles and mediolaterally narrow thoraces. This morphology represents a response to the mechanical requirements of habitual pronograde quadrupedalism. In contrast, hominoids, particularly great apes, have shorter, stiffer spines and broader torsos than do monkeys. The hominoid pattern reflects an emphasis on forelimb abduction-adduction, and on stability and control of the lower back during forelimb-dominated arboreal locomotion. KNM-MW 13142 had craniocaudally elongate vertebral bodies, and probably six lumbar vertebrae, reflecting a long, flexible vertebral column. The narrow, laterally facing iliac blades of KNM-MW 13142 imply the presence of a mediolaterally narrow, dorsoventrally deep thorax. Its wide iliac tuberosities, ventrally located lumbar transverse processes, and distinct accessory processes suggest that Proconsul nyanzae also had strap-like epaxial muscles similar to those characterizing most monkeys. Axial and pelvic morphology of KNM-MW 13142 indicate that P. nyanzae had not undergone an ape-like rearrangement of its torso to adapt to forelimb-dominated arboreality. Instead, P. nyanzae probably retained a more primitive pattern of pronograde quadrupedalism. This morphology indicates that the extant hominoid pattern of torso anatomy arose subsequent to the establishment of the hominid clade. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.