Structural and mechanical indicators of limb specialization in primates.

M. B. Schaffler, D. B. Burr, W. L. Jungers, C. B. Ruff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


The structural mechanics of femora and humeri from primates representing a wide spectrum of habitual locomotor activities were examined to determine how cross-sectional properties vary with functional specializations of the extremities. Average bending rigidities of the midshaft of humerus and femur were measured in 60 individuals of four nonhuman primate species (Macaca nemestrina, Macaca fascicularis, Presbytis cristata, Hylobates lar) using single-beam photon absorptiometry. Linear regression analyses of the loge transformed data were used to assess the relative usage of the forelimb and hindlimb in propulsion and weight bearing, and to evaluate deviations from generalized mammalian quadrupedalism. The results suggest that average bending rigidities of the humerus and femur in primates reflect the extent to which the forelimb and hindlimb are used differently in locomotion; deviations of average bending rigidity from geometric similarity indicate functional variations from generalized mammalian quadrupedalism and the ratio of humeral to femoral bending rigidity can be used to identify trends towards hindlimb or forelimb dominance in locomotion and can be employed in general to determine how the limb was used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-75
Number of pages15
JournalFolia primatologica; international journal of primatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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