Great ape walking kinematics: Implications for hominoid evolution.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Great apes provide a point of reference for understanding the evolution of locomotion in hominoids and early hominins. We assessed (1) the extent to which great apes use diagonal sequence, diagonal couplet gaits, like other primates, (2) the extent to which gait and posture vary across great apes, and (3) the role of body mass and limb proportions on ape quadrupedal kinematics.


High-speed digital video of zoo-housed bonobos (Pan paniscus, N = 8), chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes, N = 13), lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla, N = 13), and orangutans (Pongo spp. N = 6) walking over-ground at self-selected speeds were used to determine the timing of limb touch-down, take-off, and to measure joint and segment angles at touch-down, midstance, and take-off.


The great apes in our study showed broad kinematic and spatiotemporal similarity in quadrupedal walking. Size-adjusted walking speed was the strongest predictor of gait variables. Body mass had a negligible effect on variation in joint and segment angles, but stride frequency did trend higher among larger apes in analyses including size-adjusted speed. In contrast to most other primates, great apes did not favor diagonal sequence footfall patterns, but exhibited variable gait patterns that frequently shifted between diagonal and lateral sequences.


Similarities in the terrestrial walking kinematics of extant great apes likely reflect their similar post-cranial anatomy and proportions. Our results suggest that the walking kinematics of orthograde, suspensory Miocene ape species were likely similar to living great apes, and highlight the utility of videographic and behavioral data in interpreting primate skeletal morphology.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Finestone, EM; Brown, MH; Ross, SR; Pontzer, H

Published Date

  • May 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 166 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 43 - 55

PubMed ID

  • 29313896

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1096-8644

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0002-9483

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/ajpa.23397


  • eng