Relative strength of the tibia and fibula and locomotor behavior in hominoids.

Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0383, USA.
Journal of Human Evolution (Impact Factor: 3.87). 01/2008; 53(6):647-55. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2007.05.007
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The fibula has rarely been considered in comparative morphological studies, probably due to its relatively minor role in carrying mechanical loads. However, some differences in morphology (and inferred function) of the fibula between humans and apes, and within apes, have been noted and related to differences in positional behavior. Therefore, the study of tibiofibular relations may be useful in characterizing such differences. This study examines cross-sectional geometric (CSG) properties (cortical area and polar section modulus, Z(p)) of the tibia and fibula at mid-diaphysis across a sample (n=87) of humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons. The fibula is compared against the tibia in the different taxa. The results indicate that the robusticity of the fibula relative to that of the tibia can be explained in terms of differences in positional behavior. In particular, hominoids that are more arboreal (i.e., gibbons, orangutans, and chimpanzees) possess a relatively more robust fibula than do hominoids that are more terrestrial (i.e., gorillas and humans). The difference appears to be a consequence of the more mobile fibula and more adducted position of the hindlimb necessary in an arboreal environment. Apart from providing the first CSG data on the fibula, these results may be helpful in reconstructing the locomotor behavior of fossil hominoids.

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    ABSTRACT: Because of their role in weight bearing, the bones normally used to infer mobility patterns in past populations are the femur and the tibia. Nevertheless, studies of living hominoids and modern human athletes have demonstrated that the structural properties of the fibula are significantly correlated with mobility patterns. This study assess variation in fibular cross-sectional properties (CA, I max , I min , and J) within a sample of 155 individuals from the Late Upper Paleo-lithic (LUP), Neolithic and Iron Age of Italy, Medieval Germany, and contemporary athletes (long distance runners, field hockey players) and controls. The aim of this research is to investigate the correspondence between fibular diaphyseal properties and inferred mobility patterns in past populations. Cross-sectional measurements were taken at the midshaft, and both fibular rigidity and the ratio of tibial to fibular rigidity were analyzed (see Marchi, 2007). LUP, Neolithic and Iron Age samples display the highest relative fibular rigidity, comparable to that of modern hockey players. The pronounced fibular rigidity associated with hockey players is explained as the skeletal adaptation to habitual multi-directional lower limb loading associated with their sport. The LUP, Neolithic and Iron Age individuals are thought to have been very active and resided in a region of uneven terrain; therefore the requirement for repetitive directional changes throughout the gait cycle where likely frequent. It is suggested that the inclusion of the fibula in analyses of skeletal and fossil remains will allow for a more nuanced appreciation of the influence of mobility patterns on bioarchaeological populations.
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May 22, 2014