Hand posture in the grey mouse lemur during arboreal locomotion on narrow branches

Abstract : Primates are typically subdivided into two fundamentally different groups: Strepsirrhini and Haplorrhini. These two suborders are differentiated by several anatomical characteristics, among which are features of the wrist and hand. Whereas strepsirrhines are characterized by an ectaxonic hand with a longer fourth digit, haplorhines display a mesaxonic hand with a longer third digit. Two complementary studies suggest that (1) an ulnarly deviated hand with respect to the forearm during locomotion is typical for ectaxonic hands and thin branches whereas mesaxonic hands display a less-deviated posture in relation to a more terrestrial type of locomotion; (2) ulnar deviations are not always produced by ectaxonic hands and may rather be associated with locomotion in an arboreal environment. The aim of this study was to explore how arboreal substrates influence the posture of the hand and the wrist in contact with the substrate. In this context, we assessed the grasping ability of the strepsirrhine Microcebus murinus, a highly arboreal species. Here we tested the effect of branch diameter (1 and 3 cm) and orientation (horizontal and vertical) on grasp choice during arboreal locomotion. Our results show that two hand postures were observed on horizontal substrates versus three-hand postures on vertical substrates. When ulnar deviation was observed, it was typically observed on vertical substrates, particularly on thick ones. In conclusion, our data show that vertical substrates increase the variability in grasping hand postures for M. murinus and include the use of uncommon grasps compared with horizontal substrates. We suggest that more than the arboreal substrate, the frequent use of vertical supports may influence the hand biomechanics towards ulnar deviation as observed for lorisids and indriids.
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E. Reghem, C. Byron, V. Bels, E. Pouydebat. Hand posture in the grey mouse lemur during arboreal locomotion on narrow branches. J Zool, 2012, 288 (1), pp.76--81. ⟨10.1111/j.1469-7998.2012.00926.x⟩. ⟨hal-01342239⟩

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