Trabecular bone structure of the proximal capitate in extant hominids and fossil hominins with implications for midcarpal joint loading and the dart-thrower's motion

Publication Name

American Journal of Biological Anthropology


Objectives: This research examines whether the distribution of trabecular bone in the proximal capitates of extant hominids, as well as several fossil hominin taxa, is associated with the oblique path of the midcarpal joint known as the dart-thrower's motion (DTM). Materials and Methods: We analyzed proximal capitates from extant (Pongo n = 12; Gorilla n = 11; Pan n = 10; fossil and recent Homo sapiens n = 29) and extinct (Australopithecus sediba n = 2; Homo naledi n = 1; Homo floresiensis n = 2; Neandertals n = 3) hominids using a new canonical holistic morphometric analysis, which quantifies and visualizes the distribution of trabecular bone using relative bone volume as a fraction of total volume (rBV/TV). Results: Homo sapiens and Neandertals had a continuous band of high rBV/TV that extended across the scaphoid, lunate, and hamate subarticular regions, but other fossil hominins and extant great apes did not. A. sediba expressed a distinct combination of human-like and Pan-like rBV/TV distribution. Both H. floresiensis and H. naledi had high rBV/TV on the ulnar-side of the capitate but low rBV/TV on the radial-side. Conclusion: The proximal capitates of H. sapiens and Neandertals share a distinctive distribution of trabecular bone that suggests that these two species of Homo regularly load(ed) their midcarpal joints along the full extent of the oblique path of the DTM. The observed pattern in A. sediba suggests that human-like stress at the capito-scaphoid articular surface was combined with Pan-like wrist postures, whereas the patterns in H. floresiensis and H. naledi suggest their midcarpal joints were loaded differently from that of H. sapiens and Neandertals.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Calleva Foundation



Link to publisher version (DOI)