Body size and joint posture in primates

John D. Polk, Scott A. Williams, Jeffrey V. Peterson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Body mass has been shown in experimental and comparative morphological studies to have a significant effect on joint posture in major limb joints. The generalizability of experimental studies is limited by their use of small sample sizes and limited size ranges. In contrast, while comparative morphological studies often have increased sample sizes, the connection between joint posture and morphological variables is often indirect. The current study infers joint postures for a large sample of primates using an experimentally validated method, and tests whether larger primates use more extended joint postures than smaller species. Postures are inferred through the analysis of patterns of subchondral bone apparent density on the medial femoral condyle. Femora from 94 adult wild-shot individuals of 28 species were included. Apparent density measurements were obtained from CT scans using AMIRA software, and the angular position of the anterior-most extent of the region of maximum apparent density on the medial femoral condyle was recorded. In general, the hypothesis that larger-bodied primates use more extended knee posture was supported, but it should be noted that considerable variation exists, particularly at small body sizes. This indicates that smaller species are less constrained by their body size, and their patterns of apparent density are consistent with a wide range of knee postures. The size-related increase in inferred joint posture was observed in most major groups of primates, and this observation attests to the generalizability of Biewener's model that relates body size and joint posture.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)359-367
    Number of pages9
    JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Oct 2009


    • Apparent density
    • Body size
    • Joint posture
    • Subchondral bone

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Anatomy
    • Anthropology


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