Investigating the relationship between form and function in the ape shoulder

Erin Lee, Dr. Michael Rainbow

Our goal is to understand how variation in skeletal anatomy alters the mechanical function of the shoulder joint. Across ape species, large-scale differences in shoulder morphology alter joint mechanics to enable functional demands such as overhead suspension or terrestrial quadrupedalism. Within the human population, shoulder morphology is still highly variable and specific shape features are correlated with soft tissue injury, indicating that more subtle shape differences can also alter joint mechanics in a meaningful way. We investigate how bony morphology alters joint range-of-motion and soft tissue function using a combination of experimental imaging and computational modelling. Characterizing this relationship between form-and-function on a small scale (within humans) and a large scale (across apes) can inform patient-specific clinical treatment and improve our understanding of how we evolved our present-day shoulder anatomy.

Relevant publications: (Lee et al., 2020)