Relative growth of the limbs and trunk in the African apes

Brian T. Shea*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Examination of relative growth and allometry is important for our understanding of the African apes, as they represent a closely related group of species of increasing body size. This study presents a comparison of ontogenetic relative growth patterns of some postcranial dimensions in Pan paniscus, Pantroglodytes, and Gorilla gorilla. Interspecific proportion differences among the three species are also analyzed. It is stressed that reliable ontogenetic information can only be obtained if subadults are examined‐growth data cannot be inferred from static adult scaling. Results indicate that some postcranial relative growth patterns are very similar in the three species, suggesting differential extrapolation of a common growth pattern, whereas for other proportion comparisons the growth trends differ markedly among the species, producing distinct shape differences in the adults Interspecific shape changes among the three species are characterized by positive allometry of chest girth and negative allometry of body height and leg length. It is suggested that relative decrease of leg length with increasing body size among the African pongids might be expected on biomechanical grounds, in order to maintain similar locomotor abilities of climbing arborealism and quadrupedal terrestrialism. Relative to body weight or trunk length, the limbs of the bonobo Pan paniscus are longer than in the common chimpanzee or the gorilla, with a lower intermembral index. This may most closely resemble the primitive condition for the African apes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-201
Number of pages23
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1981


  • African apes
  • Limbs and Trunk
  • Locomotion
  • Relative growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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