Nav: Home

Research reveals the link between primate knuckles and hand use

May 29, 2019

Research carried out by the University of Kent has found differences between the knuckle joints of primates that will enable a better understanding of ancient human hand use.

Using samples from the Powell-Cotton Museum in Birchington-on-Sea (UK), as well as samples from Germany, Belgium and the USA, a team led by School of Anthropology and Conservation (SAC) PhD student Christopher Dunmore examined the internal bone structure, called trabeculae or cancellous bone, of great apes.

Trabecular bone is a honeycomb structure that is found within most bones and changes depending on what that bone is used for during a lifetime. When it is preserved in fossils, researchers can learn more about how ancient apes as well as humans moved and interacted with their environment.

The study compared the internal bone structure of the knuckle joints in chimpanzee, bonobo, orang-utan and gorilla hands, to assess whether this bone structure records how these apes moved when knuckle-walking on the ground or hanging from trees.

The researchers found the knuckle joints of orang-utans were consistent with flexing the knuckles while grasping branches, while the joints of chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas were consistent with knuckle-walking - the most frequent ways in which these animals move around in their respective environments.

The information will now enable scientists studying fossils to better understand whether ancient humans were swinging from trees or walking on the ground.

Mr Dunmore said: 'For the first time we see interesting internal bone patterns differentiating subtle differences between chimpanzee and gorilla knuckle-walking, as well as arboreal grasping in orang-utans. This matters because when we find ancient human hand fossils that preserve their internal structure, we can work out if they were probably swinging from trees during their lifetime or if they were walking on the ground more like humans today.'
-end-
The study, entitled Metacarpal trabecular bone varies with distinct hand-positions used in hominid locomotion (Christopher Dunmore, Dr Ameline Bardo, Professor Tracy Kivell and Dr Matthew Skinner, Skeletal Biology Research Centre, SAC, University of Kent) was published in the Journal of Anatomy.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31099419

For further information and interview or image requests contact Sandy Fleming at the University of Kent Press Office.
Tel: +44 (0)1227 823581
Email: S.Fleming@kent.ac.uk

News releases can also be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/news

University of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent

Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It was ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018 and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

In 2018 it was also ranked in the top 500 of Shanghai Ranking's Academic Ranking of World Universities and 47th in the Times Higher Education's (THE) new European Teaching Rankings.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

Kent has received two Queen's Anniversary prizes for Higher and Further Education.

University of Kent

Related Fossils Articles:

Tiny fossils reveal backstory of the most mysterious amphibian alive
Researchers have determined that the fossils of an extinct species from the Triassic Period are the long-missing link that connects Kermit the Frog's amphibian brethren to wormlike creatures with a backbone and two rows of sharp teeth.
Moroccan fossils show human ancestors' diet of game
New fossil finds from the Jebel Irhoud archaeological site in Morocco do more than push back the origins of our species by 100,000 years.
South African cave yields yet more fossils of a newfound relative
Probing deeper into the South African cave system known as Rising Star, which last year yielded the largest cache of hominin fossils known to science, an international team of researchers has discovered another chamber with more remains of a newfound human relative, Homo naledi.
Research sheds new light on 'world's oldest animal fossils'
A team of researchers, led by the University of Bristol, has uncovered that ancient fossils, thought to be some of the world's earliest examples of animal remains, could in fact belong to other groups such as algae.
Viral fossils reveal how our ancestors may have eliminated an ancient infection
Scientists have uncovered how our ancestors may have wiped out an ancient retrovirus around 11 million years ago.
World's oldest plant-like fossils discovered
Scientists at the Swedish Museum of Natural History have found fossils of 1.6 billion-year-old probable red algae.
World's oldest fossils unearthed
Remains of microorganisms at least 3,770 million years old have been discovered by an international team led by UCL scientists, providing direct evidence of one of the oldest life forms on Earth.
New study gives weight to Darwin's theory of 'living fossils'
A team of researchers from the University of Bristol studying the 'living fossil' Sphenodon -- or tuatara -- have identified a new way to measure the evolutionary rate of these enigmatic creatures, giving credence to Darwin's theory of 'living fossils.'
Fossils found reveal unseen 'footprint' maker
Fossils found in Morocco from the long-extinct group of sea creatures called trilobites, including rarely seen soft-body parts, may be previously unseen animals that left distinctive fossil 'footprints' around the ancient supercontinent Gondwana.
The best way to include fossils in the 'tree of life'
A team of scientists from the University of Bristol has suggested that we need to use a fresh approach to analyze relationships in the fossil record to show how all living and extinct species are related in the 'tree of life.'

Related Fossils Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#529 Do You Really Want to Find Out Who's Your Daddy?
At least some of you by now have probably spit into a tube and mailed it off to find out who your closest relatives are, where you might be from, and what terrible diseases might await you. But what exactly did you find out? And what did you give away? In this live panel at Awesome Con we bring in science writer Tina Saey to talk about all her DNA testing, and bioethicist Debra Mathews, to determine whether Tina should have done it at all. Related links: What FamilyTreeDNA sharing genetic data with police means for you Crime solvers embraced...