• 3D geometric morphometrics;
  • hominoidea;
  • humerus;
  • proximal epiphysis


In this study we perform a three-dimensional geometric morphometric (3D GM) analysis of the proximal epiphysis of the humerus in extant great apes, including humans, in order to accurately describe the functional anatomical differences between these taxa. In addition, a fossil hominin specimen of Australopithecus afarensis was included in a multivariate GM analysis in order to test the potential of this methodological approach for making locomotor inferences from fossil remains. The results obtained show significant differences in proximal humeral morphology among the taxa studied, which had thus far largely remained unnoticed. Based on morphofunctional considerations, these anatomical differences can be correlated to differences in the locomotor repertoires of the taxa, thus confirming that the proximal humerus is suitable for constructing paleobiological inferences about locomotion. Modern humans display markedly divergent features, which set them apart from both the extant great apes and the fossil hominin A. afarensis. The morphology of the proximal epiphysis of the humerus of the latter more closely resembles that of the orangutans, thus suggesting that despite hindlimb adaptations to bipedalism, the forelimb of this taxon was still functionally involved in arboreal behaviors, such as climbing or suspension.