Analysis of the forearm rotational efficiency in extant hominoids: New insights into the functional implications of upper limb skeletal structure

Pere Ibáñez-Gimeno, Ignasi Galtés, Joan Manyosa, Assumpció Malgosa, Xavier Jordana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. The greatly diversified locomotor behaviors in the Hominoidea impose different mechanical requirements in the upper limb of each species. As forearm rotation has a major role in locomotion, the skeletal structures involved in this movement may display differences among taxa that reflect functional adaptations. To test this, we use a biomechanical model that quantifies the rotatory capacity of pronator teres (rotational efficiency) from skeletal measurements. Using a large sample of hominoids, we aim to identify the morphological adaptations that confer differences in the mechanics of forearm motion and to assess the functional advantage of these adaptations. Forearm positions along the pronation-supination range where rotational efficiency is maximal depend on the orientation of the humeral medial epicondyle and differ among taxa. Our results indicate that these are related to locomotor mode. Knuckle-walkers exhibit a medial epicondyle more posteriorly directed, which, in elbow angles close to extension, causes rotational efficiency to be maximal in pronated positions of the forearm. Species with a significant amount of arboreal locomotion, such as vertical climbing, i.e., Pongo spp., Pan troglodytes and Gorilla gorilla, display more proximally oriented epicondyles, which, in elbow flexion, leads to maximum rotational efficiencies in supinated positions of the forearm. Hylobatidae, with the less posteriorly and proximally oriented epicondyle, show their maximum rotational efficiencies closer to the forearm neutral position throughout most of the flexion-extension range, which may be linked to brachiation in this taxon. In humans, the epicondylar orientation and thus the positions of the maximum rotational efficiencies fall between arboreal and terrestrial hominoids. This may be related to the enhanced manipulative skills of the upper limb. In conclusion, the current analysis indicates that the orientation of the humeral medial epicondyle is linked to the locomotor habits of extant hominoids and therefore can be used for locomotor inferences in fossil taxa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-176
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Biomechanics
  • Elbow flexion-extension
  • Humeral medial epicondyle
  • Locomotion
  • Pronation-supination
  • Pronator teres


Dive into the research topics of 'Analysis of the forearm rotational efficiency in extant hominoids: New insights into the functional implications of upper limb skeletal structure'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this