The Primate Wrist

  • Tracy L. KivellEmail author
Part of the Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects book series (DIPR)


This chapter reviews our current understanding of the extant primate wrist. Following Wood Jones and Napier, the morphology of the primate wrist can be generally described as primitive. It is this primitiveness that allows for the great degree of versatility in wrist function that primates require to navigate their complex locomotor and manipulative environments. This chapter focuses on the variation in bony morphology across different primate clades, ranging from strepsirrhines to hominoids, and the functional implications of this morphological variation with regards to hand posture and loading during locomotion and manipulation. Morphological information is divided broadly into four articular regions of the wrist –the antebrachiocarpal, radial carpometacarpal, midcarpal, and ulnar carpometacarpal joints – with further discussion of individual carpals bones and distinct features of particular taxa. Primitive features of the wrist are discussed within a broader mammalian comparative context, while the functional implications of specialized or convergent morphology is highlighted within and across taxa and clades.


World Monkey Spider Monkey Tree Shrew Carpal Bone Ulnar Deviation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This review is the result of the knowledge, guidance, encouragement, expertise, generosity and patience of many, many people. Among them, I am grateful to David Begun with whom my interest in the wrist and hand initially developed, Daniel Schmitt and Roshna Wunderlich who taught and inspired me think about this anatomy in a completely new way, Lee Berger and Steve Churchill whose amazing fossil discoveries gave me the opportunity to move beyond the wrist, and Matthew Skinner, Jean-Jacques Hublin, Richard Lazenby and Dieter Pahr, who gave me the opportunity to look “inside” these bones for the first time. I thank the many museum curators whose generosity allowed me access to collections in their care. I am also grateful for the many insightful discussions that I have had over the years with fellow researchers of the hand, including (but not limited to) Caley Orr, Matt Tocheri, Biren Patel, Nick Stephens, Erin Marie Williams-Hatala, Mary Marzke, Campbell Rolian, Carol Ward, Sergio Almécija, and especially Pierre Lemelin, Daniel Schmitt and Brian Richmond, whose expertise and constructive comments greatly improved this chapter in particular. This work was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, General Motors Women in Science and Mathematics Award, The University of Toronto, The Max Planck Society, and the European Research Council Starting Grant #336301.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Animal Postcranial Evolution (APE) Lab, Skeletal Biology Research Center, School of Anthropology and ConservationUniversity of KentCanterburyUK
  2. 2.Department of Human EvolutionMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany

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