Orangutan positional behavior and the nature of arboreal locomotion in Hominoidea



The Asian apes, more than any other, are restricted to an arboreal habitat. They are consequently an important model in the interpretation of the morphological commonalities of the apes, which are locomotor features associated with arboreal living. This paper presents a detailed analysis of orangutan positional behavior for all age-sex categories and during a complete range of behavioral contexts, following standardized positional mode descriptions proposed by Hunt et al. ([1996] Primates 37:363–387). This paper shows that orangutan positional behavior is highly complex, representing a diverse spectrum of positional modes. Overall, all orthograde and pronograde suspensory postures are exhibited less frequently in the present study than previously reported. Orthograde suspensory locomotion is also exhibited less often, whereas pronograde and orthograde compressive locomotor modes are observed more frequently. Given the complexity of orangutan positional behavior demonstrated by this study, it is likely that differences in positional behavior between studies reflect differences in the interplay between the complex array of variables, which were shown to influence orangutan positional behavior (Thorpe and Crompton 2005 Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 127:58–78). With the exception of pronograde suspensory posture and locomotion, orangutan positional behavior is similar to that of the African apes, and in particular, lowland gorillas. This study suggests that it is orthogrady in general, rather than forelimb suspend specifically, that characterizes the positional behavior of hominoids. Am J Phys Anthropol 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.