New approaches to structural evolution of limb bones in primates.
Structural analysis of primate limb bones using engineering beam theory can reduce complex biological forms to a few readily interpretable and functionally relevant parameters. Several methods of obtaining and analyzing these structural parameters are described, including computed tomography, multiple plane radiography, photon absorptiometry, and automated digital analysis. Examples of applications of these data to problems in primate adaptation and evolution include improved estimation of body mass in fossil species, investigation of relative fore- and hindlimb mechanical loadings ('dominance'), and study of more subtle within and between species differences in behavior as reflected in variations in limb bone shape. In addition, it is shown that combined analyses of diaphyseal and articular structure can provide information on aspects of structural evolution of primate limb bones not evident from independent analysis of either type of characteristic alone.