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J Hum Evol. 2005 Oct;49(4):452-67.

Ontogeny of limb mass distribution in infant baboons (Papio cynocephalus).

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Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, 11 Divinity Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Primates have more distally distributed limb muscle mass compared to most nonprimate mammals. The heavy distal limbs of primates are likely related to their strong manual and pedal grasping abilities, and interspecific differences in limb mass distributions among primates are correlated with the amount of time spent on arboreal supports. Within primate species, individuals at different developmental stages appear to differ in limb mass distribution patterns. For example infant macaques have more distally distributed limb mass at young ages. A shift from distal to proximal limb mass concentrations coincides with a shift from dependent travel (grasping their mother's hair) to independent locomotion. Because the functional demands placed on limbs may differ between taxa, understanding the ontogeny of limb mass distribution patterns is likely an essential element in interpreting the diversity of limb mass distribution patterns present in adult primates. This study examines changes in limb inertial properties during ontogeny in a longitudinal sample of infant baboons (Papio cynocephalus). The results of this study show that infant baboons undergo a transition from distal to proximal limb mass distribution patterns. This transition in limb mass distribution coincides with the transition from dependent to independent locomotion during infant development. Compared to more arboreal macaques, infant baboons undergo a faster transition to more proximal limb mass distribution patterns. These results suggest that functional demands placed on the limbs during ontogeny have a strong impact on the development of limb mass distribution patterns.

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