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The forearm and hand musculature of semi-terrestrial rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) and arboreal gibbons (Fam. Hylobatidae). Part I. Description and comparison of the muscle configuration

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Primates live in very diverse environments and, as a consequence, show an equally diverse locomotor behaviour. During locomotion, the primate hand interacts with the superstrate and/or substrate and will therefore probably show adaptive signals linked with this locomotor behaviour. Whereas the morphology of the forearm and hand bones have been studied extensively, the functional adaptations in the hand musculature have been documented only scarcely. To evaluate whether there are potential adaptations in forelimb musculature to locomotor behaviour, we investigated the forearm and hand musculature of the highly arboreal gibbons (including Hylobates lar, Hylobates pileatus, Nomascus leucogenys, Nomascus concolor, Symphalangus syndactylus) and compared this with the musculature of the semi-terrestrial rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) by performing complete and detailed dissections on a sample of 15 unembalmed specimens. We found that the overall configuration of the upper arm and hand musculature is highly comparable between arboreal gibbons and semi-terrestrial macaques, and follows the general primate condition. Most of the identified differences in muscle configuration are located in the forearm. In macaques, a prominent m. epitrochleoanconeus is present, which potentially helps to extend the forearm and/or stabilize the elbow joint during quadrupedal walking. The m. flexor carpi radialis shows a more radial insertion in gibbons, which might be advantageous during brachiation, as it can aid radial deviation. The fingers of macaques are controlled in pairs by the m. extensor digiti secondi et tertii proprius and the m. extensor digiti quarti et quinti proprius-a similar organization can also be found in their flexors-which might aid in efficient positioning of the hand and fingers on uneven substrates during quadrupedal walking. In contrast, extension of the little finger in gibbons is controlled by a separate m. extensor digiti minimi, whereas digits 2 to 4 are extended by the m. extensor digitorum brevis, suggesting that simultaneous extension of digits 2-4 in gibbons might be important when reaching or grasping an overhead support during brachiation. In conclusion, the overall configuration of the forelimb and hand musculature is very similar in gibbons and macaques, with some peculiarities which can be linked to differences in forelimb function and which might be related to the specific locomotor behaviour of each group.
Tijdschrift: Journal of Anatomy
ISSN: 0021-8782
Issue: 4
Volume: 237
Pagina's: 774 - 790
Aantal pagina's: 17
Jaar van publicatie:2020