Micro-finite element (μFE) modeling of the siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) third proximal phalanx: The functional role of curvature and the flexor sheath ridge

N. Huynh Nguyen, Dieter H. Pahr, Thomas Gross, Matthew M. Skinner, Tracy L. Kivell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

23 Citations (Scopus)


Phalangeal curvature is a commonly used morphological feature for the interpretation of extant and fossil primate locomotor behaviour. Here, we build on a recent biomechanical study (Richmond, 2007) in two ways: first, we use a 3D micro-FE model, which models the real internal microstructure (i.e., cortical thickness and trabecular bone structure) and, second, we model four siamang third proximal phalanges. We test identical 2D homogenized FE models and two 3D micro-FE phalanx models that are mathematically straightened to isolate the biomechanical significance of curvature. We further investigate how varying the loading configuration (e.g., boundary constraints) and modeling (e.g., 2D versus 3D) affects the biomechanical behaviour of the phalanx. Finally, we examine how intraspecific variation in external and internal bony morphology affects the biomechanical behaviour of the phalanx.Simulation results demonstrate that the general pattern of strain and displacement is similar between the 3D micro-FE and 2D homogenized FE models but the absolute values differ substantially. The biomechanical behaviour of the 3D FE models more closely match the relative strain patterns from the validation experiment than the 2D homogenized FE models, indicating the 3D microstructure model is preferable. Varying the loading configuration can have dramatic effects on the biomechanical behaviour of the phalanx depending on individual morphology, but overall a cantilevered beam model is an equally valid, if not better, configuration for modeling the phalanx as other previously-proposed models. Variation in flexor ridge morphology has a substantial effect on phalanx strain; the taller the ridge, the less strain incurred by other regions of the palmar shaft. Finally, phalangeal curvature reduces overall strain experienced by the phalanx, but does not necessarily reduce bending or increase the compression-to-tension ratio. These results confirm the adaptive role of phalangeal curvature during flexed-finger grasping postures and demonstrate that modeling variation in cortical thickness and flexor ridge morphology improves the behaviour of the FE model, which has important implications for the functional interpretation of phalanx form.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-75
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancellous bone
  • Cortical bone
  • Hominoid
  • Locomotor
  • Phalangeal curvature
  • Trabecular bone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology


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