Scapula form and locomotion in chimpanzee evolution

Brian T Shea*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


A number of primatologists have followed Coolidge (Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 18:1–57, 1933) in suggesting that 1) there are significant shape differences in scapula form between pygmy and common chimpanzees, 2) scapulae of P. paniscus resemble those of hylobatids more than do those of P. troglodytes, and 3) therefore pygmy chimpanzees may exhibit a greater component of arm‐swinging and other arboreal behaviors than common chimpanzees. In this paper I utilize a comparative analysis of ontogenetic allometries of linear dimensions to determine shape differences in the scapulae of adult pygmy and common chimpanzees and to clarify size‐related changes in shape resulting from ontogenetic scaling, i.e., the differential extension of common patterns of growth allometry. Results demonstrate that the scapulae of adult P. paniscus are relatively narrower (in a direction approximately perpendicular to the scapula spine) than those of P. troglodytes, supporting Coolidge's original claim. The allometric analysis further demonstrates, however, that the two chimpanzee species exhibit ontogenetic scaling for all proportions of the scapula examined. Thus, adult pygmy chimpanzees have the scapula proportions observed in small adult and subadult P. troglodytes of comparable scapula size. The implications of this finding for past claims concerning differences in locomotor behavior between the species are discussed. This work lends additional support to previous studies that have demonstrated a high frequency of ontogenetic scaling within the genus Pan and a pedomorphic or juvenilized morphology in the pygmy chimpanzee.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-488
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1986


  • Allometry
  • Fudnction
  • Ontogeny
  • Pedomorphosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology

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