Publication No. 546 from the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center, supported in part by Grant FR-00163 of the National Institutes of Health. This work received its primary support from the Analysis of Primate Behavior Project, Public Health Service Grant No 8623. I am indebted to S. L. Washburn, T. Grand, and A. Zihlman for suggestions and encouragement, and to R. Ludeke for photographs of gibbons and J. Ito for anatomical illustrations.
Structural Adaptations to Climbing in the Gibbon Hand1
Article first published online: 28 OCT 2009
1972 American Anthropological Association
Volume 74, Issue 3, pages 326–334, June 1972
How to Cite
VAN HORN, R. N. (1972), Structural Adaptations to Climbing in the Gibbon Hand. American Anthropologist, 74: 326–334. doi: 10.1525/aa.1972.74.3.02a00050
- Issue published online: 28 OCT 2009
- Article first published online: 28 OCT 2009
In the past, the unusual features of the gibbon hand have been viewed as structures whose function is to keep the thumb out of the way during brachiation. Recent behavioral and anatomical observations, however, indicate that climbing is as important to gibbons in their high, exclusively arboreal niche as brachiation, and that many pecularities of the gibbon hand actually represent structural adaptations to climbing. The functional reevaluation of the gibbon hand makes it clear that complex and often contradictory selection factors are responsible for phenotypic manifestations and that the classification of species into locomotor types, such as brachiator, semibrachiator, and quadruped, misrepresents the species' total locomotor adaptation and obscures the complex of selective factors responsible for structural evolution.