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Publication

Insights into the musculature of the bonobo hand

Journal Contribution

The human hand is well known for its unique dexterity which is largely facilitated by a highly mobile, long and powerful thumb that enables both tool manufacturing and use, a key component of human evolution. The bonobo (Pan paniscus), the closest extant relative to modern humans together with the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), also possesses good manipulative capabilities but with a lower level of dexterity compared with modern humans. Despite the close phylogenetic relationship between bonobos and humans, detailed quantitative data of the bonobo forelimb musculature remains largely lacking. To understand how morphology may influence dexterity, we investigated the functional anatomy of the bonobo hand using a unique sample of eight bonobo cadavers, along with one chimpanzee and one human (Homo sapiens) cadaver. We performed detailed dissections of unembalmed specimens to collect quantitative datasets of the extrinsic and intrinsic hand musculature, in addition to qualitative descriptions of the forelimb muscle configurations, allowing estimation of force-generating capacities for each functional group. Furthermore, we used medical imaging to quantify the articular surface of the trapeziometacarpal joint to estimate the intra-articular pressure. Our results show that the force-generating capacity for most functional groups of the extrinsic and intrinsic hand muscles in bonobos is largely similar to that of humans, with differences in relative importance of the extensors and rotators. The bonobo thumb musculature has a lower force-generating capacity than observed in the human specimen, but the estimated maximal intra-articular pressure is higher in bonobos. Most importantly, bonobos show a higher degree of functional coupling between the muscles of the thumb, index and lateral fingers than observed in humans. It is conceivable that differentiation and individualization of the hand muscles rather than relative muscle development explain the higher level of dexterity of humans compared with that of bonobos.
Journal: Journal of Anatomy
ISSN: 0021-8782
Issue: 3
Volume: 233
Pages: 328-340
Number of pages: 13
Publication year:2018
Keywords:muscles, Pan paniscus, primate anatomy, thumb