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J Hum Evol. 2000 May;38(5):635-50.

New wrist bones of the Malagasy giant subfossil lemurs.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology & Division of Biomedical Sciences, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242, USA.


Recently discovered wrist bones of the Malagasy subfossil lemurs Babakotia radofilai, Palaeopropithecus ingens, Mesopropithecus dolichobrachion, and Megaladapis madagascariensis shed new light on the postcranial morphologies and positional behaviors that characterized these extinct primates. Wrist bones of P. ingens resemble those of certain modern hominoids in having a relatively enlarged ulnar head and dorsally extended articular surface on the hamate, features related to a large range of rotation at the inferior radioulnar and midcarpal joints. The scaphoid of P. ingens is also similar to that of the extant tree sloth Choloepus in having an elongate, palmarly directed tubercle forming a deep radial margin of the carpal tunnel for the passage of large digital flexors. In contrast, wrist remains of Megaladapis edwardsi and M. madagascariensis exhibit traits observed in the hands of extant pronograde, arboreal primates; these include a dorsopalmarly expanded pisiform and well-developed "spiral" facet on the hamate. Moreover, Megaladapis spp. and Mesopropithecus dolichobrachion possess bony tubercles (e.g., scaphoid tubercle and hamate hamulus) forming the carpal tunnel that are relatively similar in length to those of modern pronograde lemurs. Babakotia and Mesopropithecus differ from Megaladapis in exhibiting features of the midcarpal joint related to frequent supination and radioulnar deviation of the hand characteristic of animals that use vertical and quadrumanous climbing in their foraging behaviors. Comparative analysis of subfossil lemur wrist morphology complements and expands upon prior inferences based on other regions of the postcranial skeleton, and suggests a considerable degree of locomotor and postural heterogeneity among these recently extinct primates.

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