Postcranial adaptations for leaping in primates

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Leaping primates are specialized for hindlimb-propelled locomotion within arboreal habitats. As a group, they include members of Galagonidae, Lemuriformes and Tarsiidae. Postcranial characters analysed here include humeral and femoral diaphyseal rigidity, articular surface areas and lengths. Data for leaper taxa are compared with corresponding data for less specialized small primates. The more generalized comparative primates include both closely related prosimians and distantly related platyrrhines (New World monkeys). In addition, the leapers are subdivided for further analysis according to body size and taxonomic association. Questions addressed concern the identification of functionally and/or phylogenetically linked traits in leaper postcrania. Results indicate that leapers as a group have relatively higher femoral diaphyseal rigidity and longer femora than do more generalized primates. These traits are also present in Pithecia pithecia, a platyrrhine leaper included for comparison. These enhanced properties probably function in resisting large hindlimb forces incurred during leaping, and in producing longer, more efficient leaps. Most of the large-bodied lemuriform leapers are further distinguished in having relatively bigger femoral heads and reduced humeral rigidity. The small-bodied leapers, galagonids and tarsiids, do not differ in either femoral head surface area or in any of the humeral properties from more generalized primates. Pithecia has a large femoral head like lemuriforms, but it is not reduced in humeral rigidity. Aspects of hip joint structure and mobility may be related to femoral head size in lemuriforms and Pithecia. Explanations regarding reduced lemuriform humeral rigidity are also explored. Differences between lemuriform primates are also present, most notably in aspects of the distal humerus. Indrids are characterized by relatively reduced trochleae, while many lemurids have relatively small capitula. These features are interpreted with regard to frequencies of suspensory behaviour and quadrupedalism.






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Connour, JR, K Glander and F Vincent (2000). Postcranial adaptations for leaping in primates. Journal of Zoology, 251(1). pp. 79–103. 10.1017/S0952836900005100 Retrieved from

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Kenneth Earl Glander

Professor Emeritus of Evolutionary Anthropology

Primate ecology and social organization: the interaction between feeding patterns and social structure; evolutionary development of optimal group size and composition; factors affecting short and long-term demographic changes in stable groups; primate use of regenerating forests.

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