Comparative functional morphology of the primate peroneal process.
The first metatarsal of living Primates is characterized by a well-developed peroneal process, which appears proportionally larger in prosimians than in anthropoids. A large peroneal process has been hypothesized to: 1) reflect powerful hallucal grasping, 2) act as a buttress to reduce strain from loads acting on the entocuneiform-first metatarsal joint during landing and grasping after a leap, and/or 3) correlate with differences in physiological abduction of the hallux. In this study, we address the latter two hypotheses by comparing the morphology of the peroneal process in 143 specimens representing 37 species of extant prosimians, platyrrhine anthropoids, and tupaiids (tree shrews) that engage in different locomotor behaviors. In particular, we compare taxa that vary in leaping frequency and hallucal abduction. Linear and angular measurements on the first metatarsal were obtained to evaluate differences in relative peroneal process thickness and length, first metatarsal abduction angle, and overall first metatarsal shape. Leaping frequency was significantly correlated only with relative peroneal process thickness within extant lorisoids. Relative process length was positively correlated with the angle of hallucal abduction within prosimians; this angle is significantly greater in prosimians than anthropoids. Multivariate analyses of metatarsal shape effectively separate species along phylogenetic lines, but not by locomotor behaviors. The hypothesis that the peroneal process on the first metatarsal reduces the loads on the entocuneiform-first metatarsal joint during landing after a leap is in part supported by data from extant lorisoids (i.e., slow quadrupedal lorises vs. leaping galagos). A peroneal process of greater length within prosimians may serve to increase the lever arm for the peroneus longus muscle in order to prevent hyper-abduction, followed by inversion in locomotor situations where the animal's weight is born on a highly divergent/abducted hallux.
Jacobs, RL; Boyer, DM; Patel, BA
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