Does skeletal anatomy reflect adaptation to locomotor patterns? cortical and trabecular architecture in human and nonhuman anthropoids

Colin N. Shaw, Timothy M. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

64 Scopus citations


Although the correspondence between habitual activity and diaphyseal cortical bone morphology has been demonstrated for the fore- and hind-limb long bones of primates, the relationship between trabecular bone architecture and locomotor behavior is less certain. If sub-articular trabecular and diaphyseal cortical bone morphology reflects locomotor patterns, this correspondence would be a valuable tool with which to interpret morphological variation in the skeletal and fossil record. To assess this relationship, high-resolution computed tomography images from both the humeral and femoral head and midshaft of 112 individuals from eight anthropoid genera (Alouatta, Homo, Macaca, Pan, Papio, Pongo, Trachypithecus, and Symphalangus) were analyzed. Within-bone (sub-articular trabeculae vs. mid-diaphysis), between-bone (forelimb vs. hind limb), and among-taxa relative distributions (femoral:humeral) were compared. Three conclusions are evident: (1) Correlations exists between humeral head sub-articular trabecular bone architecture and mid-humerus diaphyseal bone properties; this was not the case in the femur. (2) In contrast to comparisons of inter-limb diaphyseal bone robusticity, among all species femoral head trabecular bone architecture is significantly more substantial (i.e., higher values for mechanically relevant trabecular bone architectural features) than humeral head trabecular bone architecture. (3) Interspecific comparisons of femoral morphology relative to humeral morphology reveal an osteological "locomotor signal" indicative of differential use of the forelimb and hind limb within mid-diaphysis cortical bone geometry, but not within sub-articular trabecular bone architecture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-200
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology

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