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Primates. 2005 Jan;46(1):47-57. Epub 2004 Jul 7.

Form and function of the oblique cord (chorda obliqua) in anthropoid primates.

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  • 1Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University, SBS Building, Room S-501, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4364, USA.


The oblique cord of the forearm in humans is a ligament connecting the anterolateral aspect of the ulna proximally to the posteromedial aspect of the radius distally, inserting just below the radial tuberosity. Its functional significance is uncertain, but it has been proposed that the ligament limits supination of the forearm or aids in resisting buckling failure in the curved radius. These functional explanations are unsatisfactory for bipedal humans who do not use their forelimbs in weight support. Furthermore, there are no evolutionary explanations for its presence in humans. The purpose of this study was to investigate the distribution and form of the oblique cord in non-human primates and to explore its possible functional significance and evolutionary origin in humans. Soft tissue dissections of anthropoid primates revealed the presence of an oblique cord in New and Old World monkeys and Asian apes. It was absent in all atelines. Passive manipulation of the two forearm bones in all specimens revealed that the ligament becomes most taut in pronation contrary to the proposed human condition. Isolated radii show that the oblique cord's radial insertion lacks a clear relationship with bone curvature, thus providing little support for the hypothesis of preventing buckling failure. The oblique cord's involvement in reducing bending strain in the curved radius is also unlikely. It is suggested here that the ligament may have a role in maintaining elbow stability in quadrupedal primates. Therefore, the function of the oblique cord in anthropoid primates suggests that its presence in modern humans may be a morphological and functional remnant from a quadrupedal ancestry.

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