• geometric morphometrics;
  • carpometacarpal joint;
  • manus


The joint between the capitate and third metacarpal plays an important role in stabilizing the manus during hand use in great apes and humans. Researchers have examined the morphology of this region in humans, our fossil relatives, and other extant primates to try to understand the importance of this joint in human evolution. The first goal of our research was to explore shape variation of the third metacarpal capitate facet across extant anthropoids, including hominoids, cercopithecoids, and platyrrhines. This analysis allowed us to examine the range of variation in the capitate facet and the degree to which locomotor behavior, phylogeny, and size explained shape variation. We also examined capitate facet shape in the early hominin fossil record in order to explore how the shape of this articular surface has changed during early hominin evolution. We captured six landmark coordinates on the edge of the capitate facet in extant anthropoids and fossil specimens to quantify and visualize shape variation in this region. We used principal components analysis, Procrustes distances, and multivariate regression analysis to investigate different possible influences on shape variation. We found that shape variation corresponded to function, phylogeny, and size. With the exception of brachiation, shape variation did not clearly correspond with any specific locomotor behavior. However, we identified a shift in the relative mediolateral breadth of the capitate facet during early hominin evolution, which is most likely one of several adaptations for a more stable joint surface. Anat Rec, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.