Locomotor and postural development of wild chimpanzees.
Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives and their positional repertoire likely includes elements shared with our common ancestor. Currently, limitations exist in our ability to correlate locomotor anatomy with behavioral function in the wild. Here we provide a detailed description of developmental changes in chimpanzee locomotion and posture. Fieldwork was conducted on wild chimpanzees at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda. The large size of the Ngogo chimpanzee community permitted cross-sectional analysis of locomotor and postural changes across many individuals. Chimpanzee positional behavior proceeds developmentally through a number of distinct stages, each characterized by its own loading regime. Infants principally used their upper limbs while moving; the loading environment changed to more hindlimb dominated locomotion as infants aged. Infants displayed more diversity in their forms of positional behavior than members of any other age-sex class, engaging in behaviors not habitually exhibited by adults. While the most common locomotor mode for infants was torso-orthograde suspensory locomotion, a large shift toward quadrupedal locomotion during infancy occurred at three years of age, when rates of this behavior increased. Overall, the most dramatic transition in positional behavior occurred during juvenility (at approximately five years), with the advent of complete independent locomotion. Juveniles decreased the amount of time they spent clinging and in torso-orthograde suspensory locomotion and increased their time spent sitting and walking and running quadrupedally compared with younger individuals. Juvenility marked the age at which quadrupedal walking became the most frequent locomotor behavior, but quadrupedal walking did not encompass the majority of locomotor time until individuals reached adolescence. Relative to all younger individuals, adolescent chimpanzees (10-13 years) experienced a further increase in the amount of time they walked quadrupedally. Locomotor behavior did not reach adult form until adolescence, closer to the time of epiphyseal fusion than previously thought. These findings provide new data to make predictions about how behavioral transitions influence skeletal change.