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Brachiating Gibbon

Brachiation (from "brachium", Latin for "arm") is a form of arboreal locomotion in which primates swing from tree limb to tree limb using only their arms.



The only true brachiators are the lesser apes (gibbons and siamangs). A gibbon can brachiate at speeds as high as 35 mph (55km/h) and can travel as far as 20 feet (6 m) with each swing. Spider monkeys and orangutans are considered semibrachiators.

Brachiation-aiding traits

Some of the traits that allow gibbons, siamangs, and other primates to brachiate include the following: short fingernails instead of claws, inward-closing, hook-like fingers, opposable thumbs, long forelimbs, and freely rotating shoulder joints.

Brachiation and humans

Modern humans retain many physical characteristics that suggest a protobrachiator ancestor, including flexible shoulder joints and fingers well-suited for grasping. In apes, these characteristics were adaptations for brachiation. Although humans do not normally brachiate, our anatomy suggests that brachiation may be a preadaptation to bipedalism, and healthy modern humans are still capable of brachiating. Some children’s parks include monkey bars which children play on by brachiating.

See also


  1. Rice, Patricia C.; Norah Moloney (2005). Biological Anthropology and Prehistory: Exploring our Human Ancestry. Pearson Education, Inc., pp. 178-179, 192. ISBN 0205381960
  4. MSN Encarta (Archived 2009-10-31)


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