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J Hum Evol. 2007 Dec;53(6):647-55. Epub 2007 Aug 6.

Relative strength of the tibia and fibula and locomotor behavior in hominoids.

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Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0383, USA.


The fibula has rarely been considered in comparative morphological studies, probably due to its relatively minor role in carrying mechanical loads. However, some differences in morphology (and inferred function) of the fibula between humans and apes, and within apes, have been noted and related to differences in positional behavior. Therefore, the study of tibiofibular relations may be useful in characterizing such differences. This study examines cross-sectional geometric (CSG) properties (cortical area and polar section modulus, Z(p)) of the tibia and fibula at mid-diaphysis across a sample (n=87) of humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons. The fibula is compared against the tibia in the different taxa. The results indicate that the robusticity of the fibula relative to that of the tibia can be explained in terms of differences in positional behavior. In particular, hominoids that are more arboreal (i.e., gibbons, orangutans, and chimpanzees) possess a relatively more robust fibula than do hominoids that are more terrestrial (i.e., gorillas and humans). The difference appears to be a consequence of the more mobile fibula and more adducted position of the hindlimb necessary in an arboreal environment. Apart from providing the first CSG data on the fibula, these results may be helpful in reconstructing the locomotor behavior of fossil hominoids.

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