It has been demonstrated in clinical and experimental studies that subarticular trabecular bone responds to mechanical loads transmitted across joints through changes in mass and structural organization. We investigated differences in mass, volume, and density of subarticular trabecular bone of the humeral and femoral head in Hylobates syndactylus, Colobus guereza, and Papio cynocephalus. Our hypothesis was that variations in trabecular properties between taxa may reflect differences in mechanical loading associated with different locomotor repertoires. A nondestructive method for measuring trabecular properties using optical luminance data measured from radiographs was developed. We also examined the relationship between internal trabecular properties and the external size and surface area of the humeral and femoral heads in these taxa. Our results suggest that internal and external articular structure are relatively independent of each other and may be adapted to different aspects of the mechanical environment. Differences in trabecular mass between taxa appear to correspond to differences in the magnitudes of mechanical loads borne by the joint, whereas aritcular volume and surface area are related primarily to differences in joint mobility. Because of the apparent physiological “de-coupling” of articular mass and volume, variations in articular density (mass/volume) are difficult to interpret in isolation. Comparisons of internal and external articular structure may provide new ways to reconstruct the locomotor/positional behavior of extinct taxa. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.