Mammalian spinal biomechanics: postural support in seated macaques

Julianna Gal

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The aim of this study was to investigate whether the ligamentous lumbar vertebral column of a macaque could potentially provide passive mechanical support to the weight of the head, upper body and forelimbs during upright sitting. The seated flexed curvature of the lumbar spine of Macaca sylvana was estimated from a photograph and was partitioned equally among the lumbar-lumbar intervertebral joints. This flexed curvature was compared with the hyper-extended profile of the unloaded excised ligamentous spine of a related species (Macaca fascicularis) and used to calculate changes in intervertebral angle from the unloaded excised state to the loaded in vivo state. Changes in intervertebral angle were then used to calculate the net flexion moment required to bend the spine from the unloaded curvature to the seated curvature. The moment arm of the ventrally displaced weight of the head, upper body and forelimbs was estimated and used to calculate a corresponding net force. It was found that this force corresponded to approximately 18 % of the total body weight of the 2.34 kg sample animal. This compares with a likely fractional body weight of approximately 30-40 % for the head, upper body and forelimbs of these primates. Therefore, approximately half of the ventral flexion moment associated with the combined weight of the head, upper body and forelimbs during sitting in these animals may be supported by the passive mechanical properties associated with the ligamentous lumbar spine. This represents a potential means of relieving muscular effort and saving metabolic energy.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1703-7
    Number of pages5
    JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
    Issue numberPt 12
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2002


    • Animals
    • Biomechanical Phenomena
    • Energy Metabolism
    • Lumbar Vertebrae/anatomy & histology
    • Macaca/anatomy & histology
    • Macaca fascicularis/anatomy & histology
    • Male
    • Models, Biological
    • Posture/physiology
    • Spine/anatomy & histology


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