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Keywords:

  • cancellous bone;
  • hominoid;
  • functional morphology;
  • locomotion;
  • carpus

ABSTRACT

Trabecular (or cancellous) bone has been shown to respond to mechanical loading throughout ontogeny and thus can provide unique insight into skeletal function and locomotion in comparative studies of living and fossil mammalian morphology. Trabecular bone of the hand may be particularly functionally informative because the hand has more direct contact with the substrate compared with the remainder of the forelimb during locomotion in quadrupedal mammals. This study investigates the trabecular structure within the wrist across a sample of haplorhine primates that vary in locomotor behaviour (and thus hand use) and body size. High-resolution microtomographic scans were collected of the lunate, scaphoid, and capitate in 41 individuals and eight genera (Homo, Gorilla, Pan, Papio, Pongo, Symphalangus, Hylobates, and Ateles). We predicted that particular trabecular parameters would 1) vary across suspensory, quadrupedal, and bipedal primates based on differences in hand use and load, and 2) scale with carpal size following similar allometric patterns found previously in other skeletal elements across a larger sample of mammals and primates. Analyses of variance (trabecular parameters analysed separately) and principal component analyses (trabecular parameters analysed together) revealed no clear functional signal in the trabecular structure of any of the three wrist bones. Instead, there was a large degree of variation within suspensory and quadrupedal locomotor groups, as well as high intrageneric variation within some taxa, particularly Pongo and Gorilla. However, as predicted, Homo sapiens, which rarely use their hands for locomotion and weight support, were unique in showing lower relative bone volume (BV/TV) compared with all other taxa. Furthermore, parameters used to quantify trabecular structure within the wrist scale with size generally following similar allometric patterns found in trabeculae of other mammalian skeletal elements. We discuss the challenges associated with quantifying and interpreting trabecular bone within the wrist. J. Morphol. 275:572–585, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.