Adaptive and phylogenetic influences on musculoskeletal design in cercopithecine primates

John David Polk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Broad allometric studies of the musculoskeletal system have frequently sought to explain how locomotor variables have been influenced by body mass. To examine animals that vary widely in body mass, these studies have included taxa that differ in their locomotor adaptations and phylogenetic relatedness. Because these sources of diversity could obscure the effects of body mass, this study was designed to test the effects of adaptive differences in limb proportions and phylogeny, as well as body mass, on locomotor kinematics and extensor muscle mechanical advantage. More specifically, two hypotheses were tested in a sample of closely related animals: (i) that, among animals with similar body mass, those with longer limb segments should adopt more extended limb postures to moderate the joint and midshaft bending moments that they experience, and (ii) that body mass will have similar influences on joint posture and joint moments in closely related and diverse mammalian samples. Three-dimensional kinematic and synchronous force-platform data were collected for six individual cercopithecine monkeys ranging in mass from 4kg to 24kg and at a range of walking speeds. Comparisons among three monkeys with similar body mass but different limb segment lengths reveal a significant effect of limb proportion on posture. That is, animals with longer limbs frequently use more extended limb postures and can have correspondingly lower joint moments. The scaling of locomotor variables across the entire sample of closely related monkeys was generally similar to published results for a diverse sample of mammals, with larger monkeys having more extended limb postures, lower joint moments and greater effective mechanical advantage (EMA) for their limb extensor musculature. Ankle EMA, however, did not increase with body mass in the primate sample, suggesting that clade-specific adaptive differences (e.g. the use of arboreal supports by primates) may constrain the effects of body mass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3399-3412
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Cercopithecine
  • Effective mechanical advantage
  • Interspecific scaling
  • Kinematics
  • Limb proportions
  • Monkey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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