Comparative postcranial body shape and locomotion in Chlorocebus aethiops and Cercopithecus mitis



Body weight and length, chest girth, and seven postcranial limb segment lengths are compared between two guenon species, Chlorocebus (Cercopithecus) aethiops (vervets) and Cercopithecus mitis (blue monkeys), exhibiting different habitual locomotor preferences. The subjects, all adults, were wild caught for a non-related research project (Turner et al. [1986] Genetic and morphological studies on two species of Kenyan monkeys, C. aethiops and C. mitis. In: Else JG, Lee PC, editors. Primate evolution, proceedings of the Xth International Congress of Primatology, Cambridge. London). The morphological results are interpreted within the context of previously published observations of primate locomotion and social organization. The sample is unique in that the body weight of each individual is known, allowing the effects of body-size scaling to be assessed in interspecific and intersexual comparisons. C. mitis has a significantly (P < 0.05) greater body weight and trunk length than C. aethiops. A shorter trunk may function to reduce spinal flexibility for ground-running in the latter. Proximal limb segments (arm and thigh) are significantly greater in C. mitis, reflecting known adaptations to committed arboreal quadrupedal locomotion. By contrast, relative distal limb segments (forearm, crus, and foot) are significantly longer in C. aethiops, concordant with a locomotor repertoire that includes substantial terrestrial quadrupedalism, in addition to arboreal agility, and also the requisite transition between ground and canopy. Although normally associated with arboreal monkeys, greater relative tail length occurs in the more terrestrial vervets. However, because vervets exploit both arboreal and terrestrial habitats, a longer tail may compensate for diminished balance during arboreal quadrupedalism resulting from the greater “brachial” and “crural” indices that enhance their ground quadrupedalism. Most interspecific differences in body proportions are explicable by differences in locomotor modalities. Some results, however, contradict commonly held “tenets” that relate body size and morphology exclusively to locomotion. Generally associated with terrestriality, sexual dimorphism (male/female) is greater in the more arboreal blue monkeys. A more intense, seasonal mating competition may account for this incongruity. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.