• Pan troglodytes;
  • microcomputed tomography;
  • metacarpal trabecular architecture;
  • knuckle-walking;
  • nut-cracking


Trabecular architecture was assessed by 3D micro-computed tomography from spherical volumes of interest located within the head and base of metacarpals (MC) 1, 2, and 5 from n = 19 adult common chimpanzees. Two subspecies, West African Pan troglodytes verus from the Taï Forest, Côte d'Ivoire (n = 12) and Central African P. t. troglodytes from Cameroon (n = 7), were studied. For the combined sample, the metacarpal head is distinguished by greater bone volume fraction across all metacarpals, though the MC 1 is distinctive in having thicker, more plate-like trabeculae. The architecture in the MC 2 and MC 5 can be related to strains associated with terrestrial knuckle-walking. In particular, the relatively robust MC 5 head architecture may result from functional loading incurred during braking and use of a palm-in hand posture. Examining differences between samples, we found that the Cameroon chimpanzees possess a more robust architecture across all metacarpals in the form of greater bone volume fraction, higher connectivity, and somewhat more plate-like structure. These differences are not explicable in terms of population distinctions in body size or daily travel distance, but possibly reflect a combination of more terrestrial knuckle-walking in the Cameroon sample and more diverse hand postures and precision handling required of nut-cracking in West African chimpanzees. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.