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: 3.73). 01/2008; 53(6):647-55. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2007.05.007
Source: PubMed


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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Available from: Damiano Marchi
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    • "Specifically, apes are expected to differ from humans in the anterior regions, based on observations of weight bearing on a highly dorsiflexed ankle during climbing (DeSilva, 2009). Also, apes are expected to differ from humans in the lateral regions, based on the varus angle of the ankle joint during terrestrial locomotion, and greater load transmission from the fibula (Marchi, 2007). "
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    • "Tibial morphology includes information about phylogenetic history, mode of locomotion, and substrate preference because the tibia is the element transmitting body weight from the condyles of the femur to the foot (Lewis, 1989; Ruff, 2002). Differences between human and ape tibiae are often described qualitatively (Fig. 1a) or with simple measurements (e.g., Stern and Susman, 1983; Tardieu, 1981; Senut and Tardieu, 1985; Jungers, 1987; Stern, 2000; Marchi, 2007). Those differences are mainly attributed to different locomotor modes: bipedalism , arboreal or terrestrial quadrupedalism, and suspensory behavior. "
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    • "Conversely, Pan shows a decrease in axial strength relative to torsional and average bending rigidity compared to modern humans. Multi-oriented bending loads and dynamic and propulsive movements associated with quadrupedal locomotion and arborealism increase bending and torsion in the femur, which may explain the decrease in axial strength relative to torsional and average bending rigidity in the Pan proximal femur (Carlson, 2005; Kalmey and Lovejoy, 2002; Kimura, 1995; Marchi, 2007; Ruff and Runestad, 1992). Additionally, the flexed hip and knee position in Pan acts to increase bending moments along the femoral diaphysis because the alignment between the limb segment and ground reaction force is decreased, and the moment arm of the ground reaction force relative to the moment arm of the muscle is increased (Biewener, 1989, 2005; Kimura, 1987; Schmitt, 1999; Sockol et al., 2007). "
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