Humeral Cross-Sectional Shape in Suspensory Primates and Sloths


Correspondence to: Biren A. Patel, PhD, Department of Cell and Neurobiology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, 1333 San Pablo Street, BMT 404, Los Angeles, CA 90033. E-mail:


Studies on the cross-sectional geometry of long bones in African apes have documented that shape ratios derived from second moments of area about principle axes (e.g., Imax/Imin) are often correlated with habitual locomotor behaviors. For example, humeral cross-sections tend to appear more circular in more arboreal and forelimb suspensory chimpanzees compared with terrestrial quadrupedal gorillas. These data support the hypothesis that cross-sections that are more circular in shape are adapted for multidirectional loading regimes and bending moments encountered when using acrobatic locomotor behaviors. Whether a more circular humerus reflects greater use of forelimb suspension in other primates and nonprimate mammals is unknown. In this study, cross-sections at or near midshaft of the humerus were obtained from anthropoid primates that differ in their use of forelimb suspension, as well as from two genera of suspensory sloths. Imax/Imin ratios were compared within and between groups, and correlations were made with behavioral data. In broad comparisons, observed differences in morphology follow predicted patterns. Humeri of suspensory sloths are circular. Humeri of the more suspensory hominoids tend to be more circular than those of quadrupedal taxa. Humeri of the suspensory atelines are similar to hominoids, while those of Cebus are more like nonsuspensory cercopithecoids. There is, however, considerable overlap between taxa and within finer comparisons variation between species are not in the predicted direction. Thus, although Imax/Imin ratios of the humerus are informative for characterizing generalized locomotor modes (i.e., forelimb suspensory vs. quadrupedal), additional structural information is needed for more fine-grained assessments of locomotion. Anat Rec, 296:545–556, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.