Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford


  • Alicia PownallEmail author
  • Debra P. Moore
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_1435-1



Curved bone of the shoulder (pectoral) girdle that typically serves to link the shoulder blade (scapula) and breastbone (sternum) in vertebrates.


The term “clavicle” originates from the Latin word clavicular, meaning little key. This describes the function of this bone in that is rotates along its axis similar to a key when the shoulder is abducted (rotated away from the body). When present, this bone serves as a strut to support the shoulder. It is in fact the only long bone, meaning a bone longer than it is wide, of the body that is oriented in a horizontal fashion (Nagashima et al. 2016). Clavicles are present in most mammals with prehensile forelimbs, but they are absent in sea mammals and animals that have evolved to be more adapted for running. The furcular bone, more commonly known as the wishbone in birds, is composed of two clavicles fused together (Larson 2009). Aside from species variations, there are several other characteristics...

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  1. Larson, S. G. (2009). Evolution of the hominin shoulder: Early Homo. In F. E. Grine, J. G. Fleagle, & R. E. Leakey (Eds.), The first humans – Origin and early evolution of the genus Homo. Vertebrate paleobiology and paleoanthropology. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  2. Nagashima, H., Sugahara, F., & Watand, K. (2016). Development origin of the clavicle, and its implications for the evolution of the neck and the paired appendages in vertebrates. Journal of Anatomy, 4, 536–548.  https://doi.org/10.1111/joa.12502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Voisin, J.-L. (2006). Clavicle, a neglected bone: Morphology and relation to arm movements and shoulder architecture in primates. The Anatomical Record Part A: Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology, 288A(9), 944–953.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Mystera M. Samuelson
    • 1
  1. 1.The Institute for Marine Mammal StudiesGulfportUSA