6 Postcranial and Locomotor Adaptations of Hominoids

  • Carol V. Ward
Reference work entry


Extant apes are adapted to various forms of below-branch forelimb-dominated arboreal locomotion and share morphologies associated with the shared aspects of their locomotor behaviors. With the expanding record of Miocene hominoid fossils, we are coming to realize that although some shared characters may indeed be homologous, at least some almost certainly represent homoplasies. The apparently more primitive body plan of Sivapithecus than seen in Asian and African great apes indicates that at least some homoplasy has occurred within these clades. Furthermore, the expanding fossil record may be indicating a greater diversity of positional behaviors within the Hominoidea than previously appreciated; for example, Pierolapithecus may indicate the evolution of suspensory locomotion in combination with arboreal quadrupedalism, and Nacholapithecus is unique with its enlarged forelimb but otherwise primitive body plan. These new fossils reveal that variation is prevalent and critical to appreciate for reconstructing hominoid evolutionary history. Furthermore, it seems increasingly likely that many postcranial and locomotor specializations of great apes may have evolved from ancestors that were more generalized than are living hominoids. This realization is critical for interpreting the ancestral morphology from which hominins were derived.


Middle Miocene Glenoid Fossa Pectoral Girdle Locomotor Adaptation Locomotor Specialization 
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  • Carol V. Ward

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