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Keywords:

  • Generalized Procrustes analysis;
  • Gorilla;
  • hindlimb;
  • hominoid;
  • Homo;
  • Hylobates;
  • locomotion;
  • morphology;
  • Pan;
  • Pongo;
  • thin plate spline

Abstract

As part of the hip joint, the proximal femur is an integral locomotor component. Although a link between locomotion and the morphology of some aspects of the proximal femur has been identified, inclusive shapes of this element have not been compared among behaviourally heterogeneous hominoids. Previous analyses have partitioned complex proximal femoral morphology into discrete features (e.g. head, neck, greater trochanter) to facilitate conventional linear measurements. In this study, three-dimensional geometric morphometrics are used to examine the shape of the proximal femur in hominoids to determine whether femoral shape co-varies with locomotor category. Fourteen landmarks are recorded on adult femora of Homo, Pan, Gorilla, Pongo and Hylobates. Generalized Procrustes analysis (GPA) is used to adjust for position, orientation and scale among landmark configurations. Principal components analysis is used to collapse and compare variation in residuals from GPA, and thin-plate spline analysis is used to visualize shape change among taxa. The results indicate that knucklewalking African apes are similar to one another in femoral shape, whereas the more suspensory Asian apes diverge from the African ape pattern. The shape of the human and orangutan proximal femur converge, a result that is best explained in terms of the distinct requirements for locomotion in each group. These findings suggest that the shape of the proximal femur is brought about primarily by locomotor behaviour.