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Keywords:

  • ankle;
  • bonobo;
  • foot myology;
  • gibbon;
  • locomotion

Abstract

This study investigates the foot and ankle myology of gibbons and bonobos, and compares it with the human foot. Gibbons and bonobos are both highly arboreal species, yet they have a different locomotor behaviour. Gibbon locomotion is almost exclusively arboreal and is characterized by speed and mobility, whereas bonobo locomotion entails some terrestrial knuckle-walking and both mobility and stability are important. We examine if these differences in locomotion are reflected in their foot myology. Therefore, we have executed detailed dissections of the lower hind limb of two bonobo and three gibbon cadavers. We took several measurements on the isolated muscles (mass, length, physiological cross sectional area, etc.) and calculated the relative muscle masses and belly lengths of the major muscle groups to make interspecific comparisons. An extensive description of all foot and ankle muscles is given and differences between gibbons, bonobos and humans are discussed. No major differences were found between the foot and ankle musculature of both apes; however, marked differences were found between the ape and human foot. The human foot is specialized for solely one type of locomotion, whereas ape feet are extremely adaptable to a wide variety of locomotor modes. Apart from providing interesting anatomical data, this study can also be helpful for the interpretation of fossil (pre)hominids.