Investigating the form-function interface in African apes: Relationships between principal moments of area and positional behaviors in femoral and humeral diaphyses


  • Kristian J. Carlson

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anatomical Sciences, School of Medicine, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794-8081
    • Department of Anatomical Sciences, Health Sciences Center, School of Medicine, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8081
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Investigations of cross-sectional geometry in nonhuman primate limb bones typically attribute shape ratios to qualitative behavioral characterizations, e.g., leaper, slow climber, brachiator, or terrestrial vs. arboreal quadruped. Quantitative positional behavioral data, however, have yet to be used in a rigorous evaluation of such shape-behavior connections. African apes represent an ideal population for such an investigation because their relatedness minimizes phylogenetic inertia, they exhibit diverse behavioral repertoires, and their locomotor behaviors are known from multiple studies. Cross-sectional data from femoral and humeral diaphyses were collected for 222 wild-shot specimens, encompassing Pan paniscus and all commonly recognized African ape subspecies. Digital representations of diaphyseal cross sections were acquired via computed tomography at three locations per diaphysis. Locomotor behaviors were pooled broadly into arboreal and terrestrial categories, then partitioned into quadrupedal walking, quadrumanous climbing, scrambling, and suspensory categories. Sex-specific taxonomic differences in ratios of principal moments of area (PMA) were statistically significant more often in the femoral diaphysis than the humeral diaphysis. While it appears difficult to relate a measure of shape (e.g., PMA ratio) to individual locomotor modes, general locomotor differences (e.g., percentage arboreal vs. terrestrial locomotion) are discerned more easily. As percentage of arboreal locomotion for a group increases, average cross sections appear more circular. Associations between PMA ratio and specific locomotor behaviors are less straightforward. Individual behaviors that integrate eccentric limb positions (e.g., arboreal scrambling) may not engender more circular cross sections than behaviors that incorporate repetitive sagittal movements (e.g., quadrupedal walking) in a straightforward manner. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2005. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.