Mechanical constraints on the functional morphology of the gibbon hind limb
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Journal of anatomy. - London
, p. 383-400
University of Antwerp
Gibbons utilize a number of locomotor modes in the wild, including bipedalism, leaping and, most of all, brachiation. Each locomotor mode puts specific constraints on the morphology of the animal; in some cases these may be complementary, whereas in others they may conflict. Despite several studies of the locomotor biomechanics of gibbons, very little is known about the musculoskeletal architecture of the limbs. In this study, we present quantitative anatomical data of the hind limb for four species of gibbon (Hylobates lar, H. moloch, H. pileatus and Symphalangus syndactylus). Muscle mass and fascicle lengths were obtained from all of the major hind limb muscles and the physiological cross-sectional area was calculated and scaled to remove the effect of body size. The results clearly indicate that, for all of the species studied, the major hip, knee and ankle extensors are short-fascicled and pennate. The major hip and knee flexors, however, are long-fascicled, parallel muscles with relatively small physiological cross-sectional areas. We hypothesize that the short-fascicled muscles could be coupled with a power-amplifying mechanism and are predominantly useful in leaping. The long-fascicled knee and hip flexors are adapted for a wide range of joint postures and can play a role in flexing the legs during brachiation.