Hindlimb muscle architecture in non-human great apes and a comparison of methods for analysing inter-species variation


Julia Patricia Myatt, Structure and Motion Lab, The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hatfield, Herts AL9 7TA, UK. T: + 44 (0)1707 666423; E:jmyatt@rvc.ac.uk; julia.myatt@gmail.com


By relating an animal’s morphology to its functional role and the behaviours performed, we can further develop our understanding of the selective factors and constraints acting on the adaptations of great apes. Comparison of muscle architecture between different ape species, however, is difficult because only small sample sizes are ever available. Further, such samples are often comprised of different age–sex classes, so studies have to rely on scaling techniques to remove body mass differences. However, the reliability of such scaling techniques has been questioned. As datasets increase in size, more reliable statistical analysis may eventually become possible. Here we employ geometric and allometric scaling techniques, and ancovas (a form of general linear model, GLM) to highlight and explore the different methods available for comparing functional morphology in the non-human great apes. Our results underline the importance of regressing data against a suitable body size variable to ascertain the relationship (geometric or allometric) and of choosing appropriate exponents by which to scale data. ancova models, while likely to be more robust than scaling for species comparisons when sample sizes are high, suffer from reduced power when sample sizes are low. Therefore, until sample sizes are radically increased it is preferable to include scaling analyses along with ancovas in data exploration. Overall, the results obtained from the different methods show little significant variation, whether in muscle belly mass, fascicle length or physiological cross-sectional area between the different species. This may reflect relatively close evolutionary relationships of the non-human great apes; a universal influence on morphology of generalised orthograde locomotor behaviours or, quite likely, both.