Modern humans are the only fully terrestrial ape. All other apes are partially arboreal, particularly as infants and juveniles. Precocial locomotor development, high frequency of arboreal locomotion in early ontogeny, and increased terrestriality throughout development are ubiquitous amongst the hominines and likely represent the ancestral state. The role of climbing in hominin evolution has been debated for decades, but if hominins climbed regularly then subadults likely relied on it most frequently. Investigating the role of climbing throughout hominin evolution requires reliable developmentally plastic traits that are responsive to locomotor loading and can be identified in the fossil record. Chimpanzees and gorillas provide a natural experiment to examine the relationship between age-related variation locomotor activities and bone structure. Chimpanzees and gorillas are most arboreal during infancy and become more terrestrial throughout development. Gorillas are comparatively more terrestrial and transition to predominantly terrestrial locomotion at an earlier age. This paper has two main objectives. First, to examine if interspecific differences in the rate of locomotor development is reflected in bone structure. Second, to determine if ontogenetic reductions in the frequency of arboreal locomotion correspond to age-related variation in bone structure.

, , , , ,
Frontiers Media SA
Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

Released under the CC-BY 4.0 ("Attribution 4.0 International") License

Staff publications

Saers, J. (2023). Skeletal indicators of developmental changes in arboreality and locomotor maturation in extant apes and their relevance to hominin paleobiology. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 11(1274762), 1–19. doi:10.3389/fevo.2023.1274762