Developments in development: What have we learned from primate locomotor ontogeny?


Developments in development: What have we learned from primate locomotor ontogeny?


Young Jesse W; Shapiro Liza J


American journal of physical anthropology




The importance of locomotion to evolutionary fitness has led to extensive study of primate locomotor behavior, morphology and ecology. Most previous research has focused on adult primates, but in the last few decades, increased attention to locomotor development has provided new insights toward our broader understanding of primate adaptation and evolution. Here, we review the contributions of this body of work from three basic perspectives. First, we assess possible determinants on the timing of locomotor independence, an important life history event. Significant influences on timing of locomotor independence include adult female body mass, age at weaning, and especially relative brain size, a significant predictor of other primate life history variables. Additionally, we found significant phylogenetic differences in the timing of locomotor independence, even accounting for these influences. Second, we discuss how structural aspects of primate growth may enhance the locomotor performance and safety of young primates, despite their inherent neuromotor and musculoskeletal limitations. For example, compared to adults, growing primates have greater muscle mechanical advantage, greater bone robusticity, and larger extremities with relatively long digits. Third, focusing on primate quadrupedalism, we provide examples that illustrate how ontogenetic transitions in morphology and locomotion can serve as a model system for testing broader principles underlying primate locomotor biomechanics. This approach has led to a better understanding of the key features that contribute to primates' stride characteristics, gait patterns, limb force distribution, and limb postures. We have learned a great deal from the study of locomotor ontogeny, but there is much left to explore. We conclude by offering guidelines for future research, both in the laboratory and the field.


*allometry; *gait mechanics; *life history; *locomotor independence; *ontogeny; Animals; Anthropology; Biomechanical Phenomena/*physiology; Bone and Bones/physiology; Female; Gait/*physiology; Hand Strength/physiology; Humans; Locomotion/*physiology; Male; Phylogeny; Physical; Primates/*physiology



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165 Suppl 65


Young Jesse W; Shapiro Liza J, “Developments in development: What have we learned from primate locomotor ontogeny?,” NEOMED Bibliography Database, accessed January 24, 2021,

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