The evolution of human and ape hand proportions

Sergio Almécija, Jeroen B. Smaers, William L. Jungers

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    87 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    © 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved. Human hands are distinguished from apes by possessing longer thumbs relative to fingers. However, this simple ape-human dichotomy fails to provide an adequate framework for testing competing hypotheses of human evolution and for reconstructing the morphology of the last common ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees. We inspect human and ape hand-length proportions using phylogenetically informed morphometric analyses and test alternative models of evolution along the anthropoid tree of life, including fossils like the plesiomorphic ape Proconsul heseloni and the hominins Ardipithecus ramidus and Australopithecus sediba. Our results reveal high levels of hand disparity among modern hominoids, which are explained by different evolutionary processes: autapomorphic evolution in hylobatids (extreme digital and thumb elongation), convergent adaptation between chimpanzees and orangutans (digital elongation) and comparatively little change in gorillas and hominins. The human (and australopith) high thumb-to-digits ratio required little change since the LCA, and was acquired convergently with other highly dexterous anthropoids.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number7717
    JournalNature Communications
    Volume6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2015

    Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The evolution of human and ape hand proportions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this