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Keywords:

  • intertransversarii caudae musculature;
  • muscle cross-sectional area;
  • fiber length;
  • tail biomechanics;
  • prehensility;
  • platyrrhines;
  • kinkajou;
  • coati

Abstract

Prehensile-tailed platyrrhines (atelines and Cebus) and procyonids (Potos) display bony tail features that have been functionally and adaptively linked to their prehensile behaviors, particularly the need to resist relatively greater bending and torsional stresses associated with supporting their body weight during suspensory postures. We compared fiber architecture of the mm. intertransversarii caudae (ITC), the prime tail lateral flexors/rotators, in 40 individuals distributed across 8 platyrrhine and 2 procyonid genera, divided into one of two groups: prehensile or nonprehensile. We tested the hypothesis that prehensile-tailed taxa exhibit relatively greater physiologic cross-sectional areas (PCSAs) to maintain tail suspensory postures for extended periods. As an architectural trade-off of maximizing force, we also predicted prehensile-tailed taxa would exhibit relatively shorter, more pinnate fibers, and a lower mass to tetanic tension ratio (Mass/PO). Prehensile-tailed taxa have relatively higher PCSAs in all tail regions, indicating their capacity to generate relatively greater maximum muscle forces compared to nonprehensile-tailed taxa. Contrary to our predictions, there are no group differences in pinnation angles, fiber lengths or M/PO ratios. Therefore, the relatively greater prehensile PCSAs are driven largely by relative increase in muscle mass. These findings suggest that relatively greater ITC PCSAs can be functionally linked to the need for prehensile-tailed taxa to suspend and support their body weight during arboreal behaviors. Moreover, maximizing ITC force production may not come at the expense of muscle excursion/contraction velocity. One advantage of this architectural configuration is it facilitates suspension of the body while simultaneously maximizing tail contact with the substrate. Anat Rec, 292:827–841, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.