A 3D quantitative comparison of trapezium and trapezoid relative articular and nonarticular surface areas in modern humans and great apes

Matt W. Tocheri, A. Razdan, R. C. Williams, M. W. Marzke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

51 Scopus citations


The structure and functions of the modern human hand are critical components of what distinguishes Homo sapiens from the great apes (Gorilla, Pan, and Pongo). In this study, attention is focused on the trapezium and trapezoid, the two most lateral bones of the distal carpal row, in the four extant hominid genera, representing the first time they have been quantified and analyzed together as a morphological-functional complex. Our objective is to quantify the relative articular and nonarticular surface areas of these two bones and to test whether modern humans exhibit significant shape differences from the great apes, as predicted by previous qualitative analyses and the functional demands of differing manipulative and locomotor strategies. Modern humans were predicted to show larger relative first metacarpal and scaphoid surfaces on the trapezium because of the regular recruitment of the thumb during manipulative behaviors; alternatively, great apes were predicted to show larger relative second metacarpal and scaphoid surfaces on the trapezoid because of the functional demands on the hands during locomotor behaviors. Modern humans were also expected to exhibit larger relative mutual joint surfaces between the trapezoid and adjacent carpals than do the great apes because of assumed transverse loads generated by the functional demands of the modern human power grip. Using 3D bone models acquired through laser digitizing, the relative articular and nonarticular areas on each bone are quantified and compared. Multivariate analyses of these data clearly distinguish modern humans from the great apes. In total, the observed differences between modern humans and the great apes support morphological predictions based on the fact that this region of the human wrist is no longer involved in weight-bearing during locomotor behavior and is instead recruited solely for manipulative behaviors. The results provide the beginnings of a 3D comparative standard against which further extant and fossil primate wrist bones can be compared within the contexts of manipulative and locomotor behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)570-586
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of human evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2005



  • 3D analysis
  • Geometric modeling
  • Index finger
  • Locomotor and manipulative behavior
  • STT region
  • Thumb

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology

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