Trabecular architecture of the distal femur in extant hominids

Andrea Lukova*, Christopher J Dunmore, Sebastian Bachmann, Alexander Synek, Dieter H Pahr, Tracy L Kivell, Matthew M Skinner

*Corresponding author for this work

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


Extant great apes are characterized by a wide range of locomotor, postural and manipulative behaviours that each require the limbs to be used in different ways. In addition to external bone morphology, comparative investigation of trabecular bone, which (re-)models to reflect loads incurred during life, can provide novel insights into bone functional adaptation. Here, we use canonical holistic morphometric analysis (cHMA) to analyse the trabecular morphology in the distal femoral epiphysis of Homo sapiens (n = 26), Gorilla gorilla (n = 14), Pan troglodytes (n = 15) and Pongo sp. (n = 9). We test two predictions: (1) that differing locomotor behaviours will be reflected in differing trabecular architecture of the distal femur across Homo, Pan, Gorilla and Pongo; (2) that trabecular architecture will significantly differ between male and female Gorilla due to their different levels of arboreality but not between male and female Pan or Homo based on previous studies of locomotor behaviours. Results indicate that trabecular architecture differs among extant great apes based on their locomotor repertoires. The relative bone volume and degree of anisotropy patterns found reflect habitual use of extended knee postures during bipedalism in Homo, and habitual use of flexed knee posture during terrestrial and arboreal locomotion in Pan and Gorilla. Trabecular architecture in Pongo is consistent with a highly mobile knee joint that may vary in posture from extension to full flexion. Within Gorilla, trabecular architecture suggests a different loading of knee in extension/flexion between females and males, but no sex differences were found in Pan or Homo, supporting our predictions. Inter- and intra-specific variation in trabecular architecture of distal femur provides a comparative context to interpret knee postures and, in turn, locomotor behaviours in fossil hominins.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Feb 2024


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