Dimensions and moment arms of the hind- and forelimb muscles of common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

S K Thorpe, R H Crompton, M M Günther, R F Ker, R McNeill Alexander

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This paper supplies quantitative data on the hind- and forelimb musculature of common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and calculates maximum joint moments of force as a contribution to a better understanding of the differences between chimpanzee and human locomotion. We dissected three chimpanzees, and recorded muscle mass, fascicle length, and physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA). We also obtained flexion/extension moment arms of the major muscles about the limb joints. We find that in the hindlimb, chimpanzees possess longer fascicles in most muscles but smaller PCSAs than are predicted for humans of equal body mass, suggesting that the adaptive emphasis in chimpanzees is on joint mobility at the expense of tension production. In common chimpanzee bipedalism, both hips and knees are significantly more flexed than in humans, necessitating muscles capable of exerting larger moments at the joints for the same ground force. However, we find that when subject to the same stresses, chimpanzee hindlimb muscles provide far smaller moments at the joints than humans, particularly the quadriceps and plantar flexors. In contrast, all forelimb muscle masses, fascicle lengths, and PCSAs are smaller in humans than in chimpanzees, reflecting the use of the forelimbs in chimpanzee, but not human, locomotion. When subject to the same stresses, chimpanzee forelimb muscles provide larger moments at the joints than humans, presumably because of the demands on the forelimbs during locomotion. These differences in muscle architecture and function help to explain why chimpanzees are restricted in their ability to walk, and particularly to run bipedally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-99
Number of pages21
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999

Bibliographical note

Copyright 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.


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