Locomotor adaptations reflected in the wrist joints of early Tertiary primates (adapiformes)

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13 Scopus citations


The positional behaviors inferred for early Tertiary adapiform primates have been the subject of considerable debate. Adapiform wrist morphology is analyzed here within the context of extant morphoclines in carpal joint shape in order to reconstruct adapiform positional behavior. Extant vertical clingers, slow climbers, and arboreal quadrupeds differ significantly from one another in length of the m. flexor carpi ulnaris lever arm, shape of the midcarpal joint articular surface, and size and divergence of the pollical carpometacarpal articulation. These morphological differences are functionally related to differential requirements for wrist flexion, midcarpal mobility and stability, and pollical grasping, respectively. Adapis, Notharctus, and Smilodectes share with living arboreal quadrupeds a tall pisiform body, a mediolaterally flat midcarpal joint surface, and a relatively unexpanded thumb joint. Functionally, these features are related to flexing the wrist from extended positions during palmigrade, quadrupedal locomotion, increasing midcarpal joint stability during quadrupedal, weight- bearing postures, and grasping arboreal supports of predominantly horizontal and oblique orientation. The Messel adapiform (genus indet.) shares certain features of the midcarpal and pollical carpometacarpal articulations with extant vertical clingers, suggesting that this taxon used vertical substrates more frequently than other adapiforms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)585-604
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Carpal morphology
  • Eocene primates
  • Positional behavior
  • Quadrupedalism
  • Vertical clinging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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