The slender elongated form that is characteristic of the forelimb long bones of gibbons (Hylobates) has long been attributed to their functional adaptation to habitual armswinging locomotion, although potential selective advantages of this morphology for brachiation have yet to be demonstrated. If the forces exerted on the limb skeleton during brachiation indeed differ greatly from those of other locomotor modes, then the changes in skeletal loading accompanying a shift in locomotor behaviour could favour alterations in skeletal morphology in brachiating lineages. In vivo skeletal strain patterns recorded by using radiotelemetry during brachiation indicate that the forelimb bones of the gibbon are loaded in substantial tension and show reduced bending and compression in comparison with those of other mammals. We suggest that this unique loading regime could have contributed to the evolution of the distinctive morphology of hylobatid limbs.
Swartz, S MBertram, J EBiewener, A AengResearch Support, Non-U.S. Gov'tResearch Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.ENGLAND1989/11/16Nature. 1989 Nov 16;342(6247):270-2.