The semicircular canal system and locomotion: The case of extinct lemuroids and lorisoids

Alan Walker, Timothy M. Ryan, Mary T. Silcox, Elwyn L. Simons, Fred Spoor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations

Abstract

Paleontologists reconstruct the locomotor and postural behavior of extinct species by analogy with living forms and biomechanical analyses. In rare cases, behavioral evidence such as footprints can be used to confirm fossil-based reconstructions for predominantly terrestrial orders of mammals. For instance, the chalicothere prints from Laetoli show that these perissodactyls supported their body weight on the metacarpals, as previously reconstructed.1. Unfortunately, primates are mostly arboreal and rarely leave footprints. The cercopithecid and hominin prints at Laetoli are a rare exception. We have recently shown that the semicircular canal system can be used to test and augment locomotor reconstructions based on postcranial material or to provide first estimations of locomotor behavior for taxa not known from the postcranium. Using a sample of modern primates, we have been able to demonstrate that the radii of curvature of the semicircular canals are significantly correlated with both body mass and agility of locomotion.2 This paper reviews those results and examines the relationship between semicircular canal morphology and other evidence in efforts to reconstruct locomotor behavior in subfossil lemurs from the Holocene of Madagascar and fossil lorisoids from the Miocene of Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-145
Number of pages11
JournalEvolutionary anthropology
Volume17
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology

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