Upper limb
The upper limb
Limb (anatomy)
A limb is a jointed, or prehensile , appendage of the human or other animal body....

or upper extremity is the region in an animal extending from the deltoid
Deltoid can refer to:* The deltoid muscle, a muscle in the shoulder* Kite , also known as a deltoid, a type of quadrilateral* A deltoid curve, a three-sided hypocycloid* A leaf shape* The deltoid tuberosity, a part of the humerus...

 region to the hand
A hand is a prehensile, multi-fingered extremity located at the end of an arm or forelimb of primates such as humans, chimpanzees, monkeys, and lemurs...

, including the arm
In human anatomy, the arm is the part of the upper limb between the shoulder and the elbow joints. In other animals, the term arm can also be used for analogous structures, such as one of the paired forelimbs of a four-legged animal or the arms of cephalopods...

, axilla and shoulder
The human shoulder is made up of three bones: the clavicle , the scapula , and the humerus as well as associated muscles, ligaments and tendons. The articulations between the bones of the shoulder make up the shoulder joints. The major joint of the shoulder is the glenohumeral joint, which...



In formal usage, the term "arm" only refers to the structures from the shoulder to the elbow, explicitly excluding the forearm
-See also:*Forearm flexors*Forearm muscles...

, and thus "upper limb" and "arm" are not synonymous. However, in casual usage, the terms are often used interchangeably. The term "upper arm" is redundant in anatomy, but in informal usage is used to distinguish between the two terms.

Human anatomy

The muscles of the upper limb can be classified by origin, topography, function, or innervation. While a grouping by innervation reveals embryological and phylogenetic origins, the functional-topographical classification below reflects the similarity in action between muscles (with the exception of the shoulder girdle, where muscles with similar action can vary considerably in their location and orientation:)

Shoulder girdle

The shoulder girdle or pectoral girdle, composed of the clavicle
In human anatomy, the clavicle or collar bone is a long bone of short length that serves as a strut between the scapula and the sternum. It is the only long bone in body that lies horizontally...

 and the scapula
In anatomy, the scapula , omo, or shoulder blade, is the bone that connects the humerus with the clavicle ....

, connects the upper limb to the axial skeleton
Axial skeleton
The axial skeleton consists of the 80 bones along the central axis of the human body. It is composed of six parts; the human skull, the ossicles of the middle ear, the hyoid bone of the throat, the rib cage, sternum and the vertebral column...

 through the sternoclavicular joint (the only joint in the upper limb that directly articulates with the trunk), a ball and socket joint supported by the subclavius muscle
Subclavius muscle
The Subclavius is a small triangular muscle, placed between the clavicle and the first rib.Along with the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles, the subclavius muscle makes up the anterior wall of the axilla.-Origin and insertion:...

 which acts as a dynamic ligament
In anatomy, the term ligament is used to denote any of three types of structures. Most commonly, it refers to fibrous tissue that connects bones to other bones and is also known as articular ligament, articular larua, fibrous ligament, or true ligament.Ligament can also refer to:* Peritoneal...

. While this muscle prevents dislocation in the joint, strong forces tend to break the clavicle instead. The acromioclavicular joint
Acromioclavicular joint
The acromioclavicular joint, or AC joint, is a joint at the top of the shoulder. It is the junction between the acromion and the clavicle. -Function:...

, the joint between the acromion process on the scapula and the clavicle, is similarly strengthened by strong ligaments, especially the coracoclavicular ligament
Coracoclavicular ligament
The Coracoclavicular Ligament serves to connect the clavicle with the coracoid process of the scapula.It does not properly belong the acromioclavicular joint articulation, but is usually described with it, since it forms a most efficient means of retaining the clavicle in contact with the acromion...

 which prevents excessive lateral and medial movements. Between them these two joints allow a wide range of movements for the shoulder girdle, much because of the lack of a bone-to-bone contact between the scapula and the thoracic cage. The pelvic girdle is, in contrast, firmly fixed to the axial skeleton, which increases stability and load-bearing capabilities.
The mobility of the shoulder girdle is supported by a large number of muscles. The most important of these are muscular sheets rather than fusiform or strap-shaped muscles and they thus never act in isolation but with some fibres acting in coordination with fibres in other muscles.
Muscles: of shoulder girdle excluding the glenohumeral joint
Migrated from head: Trapezius, sternocleidomastoideus, omohyoideus
Posterior: Rhomboideus major, rhomboideus minor, levator scapulae
Anterior: Subclavius, pectoralis minor, serratus anterior

Shoulder joint

The glenohumeral joint
Glenohumeral joint
The glenohumeral joint, or shoulder joint, is a multiaxial synovial ball and socket joint and involves articulation between the glenoid fossa of the scapula and the head of the humerus...

 (colloquially called the shoulder joint) is the highly mobile ball and socket joint between the glenoid cavity
Glenoid cavity
The glenoid cavity is a shallow pyriform, articular surface, which is located on the lateral angle of the scapula. It is directed laterally and forward and articulates with the head of the humerus; it is broader below than above and its vertical diameter is the longest.This cavity forms the...

 of the scapula and the head of the humerus. Lacking the passive stabilisation offered by ligaments in other joints, the glenohumeral joint is actively stabilised by the rotator cuff
Rotator cuff
In anatomy, the rotator cuff is the group of muscles and their tendons that act to stabilize the shoulder. The four muscles of the rotator cuff, along with the teres major muscle, the coracobrachialis muscle and the deltoid, make up the seven scapulohumeral muscles of the human body.-Function:The...

, a group of short muscles stretching from the scapula to the humerus. Little inferior support is available to the joint and dislocation of the shoulder almost exclusively occurs in this direction.
The large muscles acting at this joint perform multiple actions and seemingly simple movements are often the result of composite antagonist and protagonist actions from several muscles. For example, pectoralis major is the most important arm flexor and latissimus dorsi the most important extensor at the glenohumeral joint, but, acting together, these two muscles cancel each other's action leaving only their combined medial rotation component. On the other hand, to achieve pure flexion at the joint the deltoid
Deltoid muscle
In human anatomy, the deltoid muscle is the muscle forming the rounded contour of the shoulder. Anatomically, it appears to be made up of three distinct sets of fibers though electromyography suggests that it consists of at least seven groups that can be independently coordinated by the central...

 and supraspinatus must cancel the adduction component and the teres minor and infraspinatus the medial rotation component of pectoralis major. Similarly, abduction (moving the arm away from the body) is performed by different muscles at different stages. The first 10° is performed entirely by the supraspinatus, but beyond that fibres of the much stronger pectoralis major are in position to take over the work. Furthermore, to achieve the full 180° range of abduction the arm must be rotated medially and the scapula most be rotate about itself to direct the glenoid cavity upward.
Muscles: of shoulder joint proper
Posterior: Supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis, deltoideus, latissimus dorsi, teres major
Anterior: Pectoralis major, coracobrachialis


The arm proper (brachium), the region between the shoulder and the elbow, is composed of the humerus
The humerus is a long bone in the arm or forelimb that runs from the shoulder to the elbow....

 with the elbow joint
The human elbow is the region surrounding the elbow-joint—the ginglymus or hinge joint in the middle of the arm. Three bones form the elbow joint: the humerus of the upper arm, and the paired radius and ulna of the forearm....

 at its distal end.

The elbow joint is a complex of three joints — the humeroradial
Humeroradial joint
The humeroradial joint, the joint between the head of the radius and the capitulum of the humerus, is a limited ball-and-socket joint, hinge type of synovial joint....

, humeroulnar
Humeroulnar joint
The humeroulnar joint, is part of the elbow-joint or the Olecron Joint, between the ulna and humerus bones is the simple hinge-joint, which allows for movements of flexion, extension and circumduction...

, and superior radioulnar joints — the former two allowing flexion and extension whilst the latter, together with its inferior namesake, allows supination and pronation at the wrist. Triceps is the major extensor and brachialis and biceps the major flexors. Biceps is, however, the major supinator and while performing this action it ceases to be an effective flexor at the elbow.
Muscles: of the arm
Posterior: Triceps brachii, anconeus
Anterior: Brachialis, biceps brachii


The forearm (antebrachium), composed of the radius
Radius (bone)
The radius is one of the two large bones of the forearm, the other being the ulna. It extends from the lateral side of the elbow to the thumb side of the wrist and runs parallel to the ulna, which exceeds it in length and size. It is a long bone, prism-shaped and slightly curved longitudinally...

 and ulna
The ulna is one of the two long bones in the forearm, the other being the radius. It is prismatic in form and runs parallel to the radius, which is shorter and smaller. In anatomical position The ulna is one of the two long bones in the forearm, the other being the radius. It is prismatic in form...

; the latter is the main distal part of the elbow joint, while the former composes the main proximal part of the wrist joint.

Most of the large number of muscles in the forearm are divided into the wrist, hand, and finger extensors on the dorsal side (back of hand) and the ditto flexors in the superficial layers on the ventral side (side of palm). These muscles are attached to either the lateral
Lateral epicondyle of the humerus
The lateral epicondyle of the humerus is a small, tuberculated eminence, curved a little forward, and giving attachment to the radial collateral ligament of the elbow-joint, and to a tendon common to the origin of the Supinator and some of the Extensor muscles. In birds, where the arm is somewhat...

 or medial epicondyle
Medial epicondyle of the humerus
The medial epicondyle of the humerus, larger and more prominent than the lateral epicondyle, is directed a little backward. In birds, where the arm is somewhat rotated compared to other tetrapods, it is called ventral epicondyle of the humerus....

 of the humerus. They thus act on the elbow, but, because their origins are located close to the centre of rotation of the elbow, they mainly act distally at the wrist and hand. Exceptions to this simple division are brachioradialis
Brachioradialis is a muscle of the forearm that acts to flex the forearm at the elbow. It is also capable of both pronation and supination, depending on the position of the forearm...

 — a strong elbow flexor — and palmaris longus — a weak wrist flexor which mainly acts to tense the palmar aponeurosis
Palmar aponeurosis
The palmar aponeurosis invests the muscles of the palm, and consists of central, lateral, and medial portions.-Central portion:The central portion occupies the middle of the palm, is triangular in shape, and of great strength and thickness....

. The deeper flexor muscles are extrinsic hand muscles; strong flexors at the finger joints used to produce the important power grip of the hand, whilst forced extension is less useful and the corresponding extensor thus are much weaker.
Biceps is the major supinator (drive a screw in with the right arm) and pronator teres and pronator quadratus
Pronator quadratus
Pronator quadratus is a square shaped muscle on the distal forearm that acts to pronate the hand.As it is on the anterior side of the arm, it is innervated by a branch of the median nerve, the anterior interosseous nerve...

 the major pronators (unscrewing) — the latter two role the radius around the ulna (hence the name of the first bone) and the former reverses this action assisted by supinator. Because biceps is much stronger than its opponents, supination is a stronger action than pronation (hence the direction of screws).
Muscles: of the forearm
Posterior: (Superficial) extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi, extensor carpi ulnaris, (deep) supinator, abductor pollicis longus, extensor pollicis brevis, extensor pollicis longus, extensor indicis
Anterior: (Superficial) pronator teres, flexor digitorum superficialis, flexor carpi radialis, flexor carpi ulnaris, palmaris longus, (deep) flexor digitorum profundus, flexor pollicis longus, pronator quadratus
Pronator quadratus
Pronator quadratus is a square shaped muscle on the distal forearm that acts to pronate the hand.As it is on the anterior side of the arm, it is innervated by a branch of the median nerve, the anterior interosseous nerve...

Radial: Brachioradialis
Brachioradialis is a muscle of the forearm that acts to flex the forearm at the elbow. It is also capable of both pronation and supination, depending on the position of the forearm...

, extensor carpi radialis longus, extensor carpi radialis brevis


The wrist
In human anatomy, the wrist is variously defined as 1) the carpus or carpal bones, the complex of eight bones forming the proximal skeletal segment of the hand;...

 (carpus), composed of the carpal bones
In tetrapods, the carpus is the sole cluster of bones in the wrist between the radius and ulna and the metacarpus. The bones of the carpus do not belong to individual fingers , whereas those of the metacarpus do. The corresponding part of the foot is the tarsus...

, articulates at the wrist joint (or radiocarpal joint) proximally and the carpometacarpal joint
Carpometacarpal joint
The carpometacarpal joints are five joints in the wrist that articulates the distal row of carpal bones and the proximal bases of the five metacarpal bones....

 distally. The wrist can be divided into two components separated by the midcarpal joint
Midcarpal joint
The midcarpal joint is formed by the scaphoid, lunate, and triquetral bones in the proximal row, and the trapezium, trapezoid, capitate, and hamate bones in the distal row. The distal pole of the scaphoid articulates with two trapezial bones as a gliding type of joint...

s. The small movements of the eight carpal bones during composite movements at the wrist are complex to describe, but flexion mainly occurs in the midcarpal joint whilst extension mainly occurs in the radiocarpal joint; the latter joint also providing most of adduction and abduction at the wrist.
How muscles act on the wrist is complex to describe. The five muscles acting on the wrist directly — flexor carpi radialis, flexor carpi ulnaris, extensor carpi radialis
Extensor carpi radialis
Extensor carpi radialis can refer to:* Extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle* Extensor carpi radialis longus muscle...

, extensor carpi ulnaris, and palmaris longus — are accompanied by the tendons of the extrinsic hand muscles (i.e. the muscles acting on the fingers). Thus, every movement at the wrist is the work of a group of muscles; because the four primary wrist muscles (FCR, FCU, ECR, and ECU) are attached to the four corners of the wrist, they also produce a secondary movement (i.e. ulnar or radial deviation). To produce pure flexion or extension at the wrist, these muscle therefore must act in pairs to cancel out each others secondary action. On the other hand, finger movements without the corresponding wrist movements require the wrist muscles to cancel out the contribution from the extrinsic hand muscles at the wrist.


The hand (manus), the metacarpals (in the hand proper) and the phalanges
Phalanx bones
In anatomy, phalanx bones are those that form the fingers and toes. In primates such as humans and monkeys, the thumb and big toe have two phalanges, while the other fingers and toes consist of three. Phalanges are classified as long bones.The phalanges do not have individual names...

 of the fingers, form the metacarpophalangeal joint
Metacarpophalangeal joint
The metacarpophalangeal joints are of the condyloid kind, formed by the reception of the rounded heads of the metacarpal bones into shallow cavities on the proximal ends of the first phalanges, with the exception of that of the thumb, which presents more of the characters of a ginglymoid joint...

s (MCP, including the knuckle
The knuckles are the joints of the fingers and toes, which are brought into prominence when the hand is clenched and a fist is made. The word is cognate to similar words in other Germanic languages, such as the Dutch "Knokkel" or German "Knöchel" , i.e., Knöchlein, the diminutive of the German...

s) and interphalangeal joint
Interphalangeal joint
Interphalangeal joint may refer to:*Interphalangeal articulations of hand*Interphalangeal articulations of foot...

s (IP).

Of the joints between the carpus and metacarpus, the carpometacarpal joint
Carpometacarpal joint
The carpometacarpal joints are five joints in the wrist that articulates the distal row of carpal bones and the proximal bases of the five metacarpal bones....

s, only the saddle-shaped joint of the thumb offers a high degree of mobility while the opposite is true for the metacarpophalangeal joints. The joints of the fingers are simple hinge joints.
The primary role of the hand itself is grasping and manipulation; tasks for which the hand has been adapted to two main grips — power grip and precision grip. In a power grip an object is held against the palm and in a precision grip an object is held with the fingers, both grips are performed by intrinsic and extrinsic hand muscles together. Most importantly, the relatively strong thenar muscles of the thumb and the thumb's flexible first joint allow the special opposition movement that brings the distal thumb pad in direct contact with the distal pads of the other four digits. Opposition is a complex combination of thumb flexion and abduction that also requires the thumb to be rotated 90° about its own axis. Without this complex movement, humans would not be able to perform a precision grip.
In addition, the central group of intrinsic hand muscles give important contributions to human dexterity. The palmar and dorsal interossei abduct and adduct at the MCP joints and are important in pinching. The lumbricals, attached to the tendons of the flexor digitorum profundus (FDP) and extensor digitorum communis (FDC), flex the MCP joints while extending the IP joints and allow a smooth transfer of forces between these two muscles while extending and flexing the fingers.
Muscles: of the hand
Metacarpal: Lumbricals
Lumbricals of the hand
The lumbricals are intrinsic muscles of the hand that flex the metacarpophalangeal joints and extend the interphalangeal joints.-Structure:There are four of these small, worm-like muscles on each hand. These muscles are unusual in that they do not attach to bone...

, dorsal interossei
Dorsal interossei of the hand
The dorsal interossei of the hand are muscles that occupy the space between the metacarpals.-Structure:There are four dorsal interossei in each hand...

, palmar introssei
Palmar interossei muscles
The palmar interossei are small muscles in the hand that lie on the anterior aspect of the metacarpals. They are smaller than the dorsal interossei of the hand, which lie between the metacarpals.-Structure:...

Thenar: Abductor pollicis brevis, adductor pollicis, flexor pollicis brevis, opponens pollicis
Hypothenar: Abductor digiti minimi, flexor digiti minimi
Flexor digiti minimi brevis (hand)
For the muscle of the foot, see Flexor digiti quinti brevis muscle The flexor digiti minimi brevis is a muscle in the hand that flexes the little finger...

, opponens digiti minimi, palmaris brevis


The motor and sensory supply of the upper limb is provided by the brachial plexus which is formed by the ventral rami of spinal nerves C5-T1. In the posterior triangle of the neck these rami form three trunks from which fibers enter the axilla region (armpit) to innervate the muscles of the anterior and posterior compartments of the limb. In the axilla, cords are formed to split into branches, including the five terminal branches listed below.

The muscles of the upper limb are innervated segmentally proximal to distal so that the proximal muscles are innervated by higher segments (C5–C6) and the distal muscles are innervated by lower segments (C8–T1).
Motor innervation of upper limb by the five terminal nerves of the brachial plexus
Brachial plexus
The brachial plexus is a network of nerve fibers, running from the spine, formed by the ventral rami of the lower four cervical and first thoracic nerve roots...

  • The musculocutaneous nerve
    Musculocutaneous nerve
    The musculocutaneous nerve arises from the lateral cord of the brachial plexus, opposite the lower border of the Pectoralis major, its fibers being derived from C5, C6 and C7.-Path:...

     innervates all the muscles of the anterior compartment of the arm
    Anterior compartment of the arm
    The anterior compartment of the arm is known as the "flexor compartment" as flexion is its main action.The muscles contained therein are the biceps brachii, brachialis, and coracobrachialis....

  • The median nerve
    Median nerve
    The median nerve is a nerve in humans and other animals. It is in the upper limb. It is one of the five main nerves originating from the brachial plexus....

     innervates all the muscles of the anterior compartment of the forearm
    Anterior compartment of the forearm
    The anterior compartment of the forearm contains the following muscles:* "E/I" refers to "extrinsic" or "intrinsic"....

     except flexor carpi ulnaris and the ulnar part of the flexor digitorum profundus. It also innervates the three thenar muscles and the first and second lumbricals
    Lumbricals of the hand
    The lumbricals are intrinsic muscles of the hand that flex the metacarpophalangeal joints and extend the interphalangeal joints.-Structure:There are four of these small, worm-like muscles on each hand. These muscles are unusual in that they do not attach to bone...

  • The ulnar nerve
    Ulnar nerve
    In human anatomy, the ulnar nerve is a nerve which runs near the ulna bone. The ulnar collateral ligament of elbow joint is in relation with the ulnar nerve. The nerve is the largest unprotected nerve in the human body , so injury is common...

     innervates the muscles of the forearm and hand not innervated by the median nerve.
  • The axillary nerve innervates the deltoid
    Deltoid can refer to:* The deltoid muscle, a muscle in the shoulder* Kite , also known as a deltoid, a type of quadrilateral* A deltoid curve, a three-sided hypocycloid* A leaf shape* The deltoid tuberosity, a part of the humerus...

     and teres minor.
  • The radial nerve
    Radial nerve
    The radial nerve is a nerve in the human body that supplies the upper limb. It supplies the medial and lateral heads of the triceps brachii muscle of the arm, as well as all 12 muscles in the posterior osteofascial compartment of the forearm and the associated joints and overlying skin.It...

     innervates the posterior muscles of the arm and forearm

Collateral branches of the brachial plexus:
  • The dorsal scapular nerve
    Dorsal scapular nerve
    The dorsal scapular nerve arises from the brachial plexus, usually from the plexus root of C5.It provides motor innervation to the rhomboid muscles, which pull the scapula towards the spine and levator scapulae muscle, which elevates the scapula....

     innervates rhomboid major and minor.
  • The long thoracic nerve
    Long thoracic nerve
    The long thoracic nerve supplies the Serratus anterior. This nerve characteristically arises by three roots from the fifth, sixth, and seventh cervical nerves but the root from C7 may be absent...

     innervates serratus anterior.
  • The suprascapular nerve
    Suprascapular nerve
    The suprascapular nerve arises from the upper trunk . It innervates the supraspinatus muscles and infraspinatus muscles....

     innervates supraspinatus and infraspinatus
  • The lateral pectoral nerve
    Lateral pectoral nerve
    The lateral pectoral nerve arises from the lateral cord of the brachial plexus, and through it from the fifth, sixth, and seventh cervical nerves....

     innervates pectoralis major
  • The medial pectoral nerve
    Medial pectoral nerve
    The medial pectoral nerve arises from the medial cord of the brachial plexus and through it from the eighth cervical and first thoracic....

     innervates pectoralis major and minor
  • The upper subscapular nerve
    Upper subscapular nerve
    The upper subscapular enters the upper part of the Subscapularis, and is frequently represented by two branches. It is derived from C5, C6 nerve fibers, and branches from the posterior cord of the brachial plexus....

     innervates subscapularis
  • The thoracodorsal nerve
    Thoracodorsal nerve
    The thoracodorsal nerve is a nerve present in humans and other animals. It is also known as the middle subscapular nerve or the long subscapular nerve. It supplies the latissimus dorsi muscle....

     innervates latissimus dorsi
  • The lower subscapular nerve
    Lower subscapular nerve
    The lower subscapular nerve is a nerve that supplies the lower part of the subscapularis muscle, and also supplies the teres major muscle....

     innervates subscapularis and teres major
  • The medial brachial cutaneous nerve innervates the skin of medial arm
  • The medial antebrachial cutaneous nerve innervates the skin of medial forearm

Evolutionary variation

The skeletons of all mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s are based on a common pentadactyl ("five-fingered") template but optimised for different functions. While many mammals can perform other tasks using their forelimbs, their primary use in most terrestrial mammals is one of three main modes of locomotion: unguligrade (hoof walkers), digitigrade
A digitigrade is an animal that stands or walks on its digits, or toes. Digitigrades include walking birds , cats, dogs, and many other mammals, but not plantigrades or unguligrades...

 (toe walkers), and plantigrade
right|151px|thumb|Human skeleton, showing plantigrade habitIn terrestrial animals, plantigrade locomotion means walking with the podials and metatarsals flat on the ground. It is one of three forms of locomotion adopted by mammals...

 (sole walkers). Generally, the forelimbs are optimised for speed and stamina, but in some mammals some of the locomotion optimisation have been sacrificed for other functions, such as digging and grasping.
In primate
A primate is a mammal of the order Primates , which contains prosimians and simians. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment...

s, the upper limbs provide a wide range of movement which increases manual dexterity. The limbs of chimpanzee
Chimpanzee, sometimes colloquially chimp, is the common name for the two extant species of ape in the genus Pan. The Congo River forms the boundary between the native habitat of the two species:...

s, compared to those of humans, reveal their different lifestyle. The chimpanzee primary uses two modes of locomotion: knuckle-walking
Knuckle-walking is a form of quadrupedal walking in which the forelimbs hold the fingers in a partially flexed posture that allows body weight to press down on the ground through the knuckles....

, a style of quadrupedalism in which the body weight is supported on the knuckles (or more properly on the middle phalanges of the fingers), and brachiation
Brachiation is a form of arboreal locomotion in which primates swing from tree limb to tree limb using only their arms.- Brachiators :...

 (swinging from branch to branch), a style of bipedalism in which flexed fingers are used to grasp branches above the head. To meet the requirements of these styles of locomotion, the chimpanzee's finger phalanges are longer and have more robust insertion areas for the flexor tendons while the metacarpals have transverse ridges to limit dorsiflexion (stretching the fingers towards the back of the hand). The thumb is small enough to facilitate brachiation while maintaining some of the dexterity offered by an opposable thumb. In contrast, virtually all locomotion functionality has been lost in humans while predominant brachiators, such as the gibbon
Gibbons are apes in the family Hylobatidae . The family is divided into four genera based on their diploid chromosome number: Hylobates , Hoolock , Nomascus , and Symphalangus . The extinct Bunopithecus sericus is a gibbon or gibbon-like ape which, until recently, was thought to be closely related...

s, have very reduced thumbs and inflexible wrists.
In ungulate
Ungulates are several groups of mammals, most of which use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving. They make up several orders of mammals, of which six to eight survive...

s the forelimbs are optimised to maximize speed and stamina to the extent that the limbs serve almost no other purpose. In contrast to the skeleton of human limbs, the proximal bones of ungulates are short and the distal bones long to provide length of stride; proximally, large and short muscles provide rapidity of step. The odd-toed ungulate
Odd-toed ungulate
An odd-toed ungulate is a mammal with hooves that feature an odd number of toes. Odd-toed ungulates comprise the order Perissodactyla . The middle toe on each hoof is usually larger than its neighbours...

s, such as the horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

, use a single third toe for weight-bearing and have significantly reduced metacarpals. Even-toed ungulate
Even-toed ungulate
The even-toed ungulates are ungulates whose weight is borne about equally by the third and fourth toes, rather than mostly or entirely by the third as in odd-toed ungulates such as horses....

s, such as the giraffe
The giraffe is an African even-toed ungulate mammal, the tallest of all extant land-living animal species, and the largest ruminant...

, uses both their third and fourth toes but a single completely fused phalanx bone for weight-bearing. Ungulates whose habitat does not require fast running on hard terrain, for example the hippopotamus
The hippopotamus , or hippo, from the ancient Greek for "river horse" , is a large, mostly herbivorous mammal in sub-Saharan Africa, and one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae After the elephant and rhinoceros, the hippopotamus is the third largest land mammal and the heaviest...

, have maintained four digits.
In species in the order carnivora
The diverse order Carnivora |Latin]] carō "flesh", + vorāre "to devour") includes over 260 species of placental mammals. Its members are formally referred to as carnivorans, while the word "carnivore" can refer to any meat-eating animal...

, some of which are insectivores
The order Insectivora is a now-abandoned biological grouping within the class of mammals...

 rather than carnivore
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging...

s, the cat
The cat , also known as the domestic cat or housecat to distinguish it from other felids and felines, is a small, usually furry, domesticated, carnivorous mammal that is valued by humans for its companionship and for its ability to hunt vermin and household pests...

s are some of the most highly evolved predators designed for speed, power, and acceleration rather than stamina. Compared to ungulates, their limbs are shorter, more muscular in the distal segments, and maintain five metacarpals and digit bones; providing a greater range of movements, a more varied function and agility (e.g. climbing, swatting, and grooming). Some insectivorous species in this order have paws specialised for specific functions. The sloth bear
Sloth Bear
The sloth bear , also known as the labiated bear, is a nocturnal insectivorous species of bear found wild within the Indian subcontinent. The sloth bear evolved from ancestral brown bears during the Pleistocene and shares features found in insect-eating mammals through convergent evolution...

 uses their digits and large claws to tear logs open rather than kill prey. Other insectivorous species, such as the giant
Giant Panda
The giant panda, or panda is a bear native to central-western and south western China. It is easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the panda's diet is 99% bamboo...

 and red panda
Red Panda
The red panda , is a small arboreal mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. It is the only species of the genus Ailurus. Slightly larger than a domestic cat, it has reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs...

s, have developed large sesamoid bone
Sesamoid bone
In anatomy, a sesamoid bone is a bone embedded within a tendon.Sesamoids are found in locations where a tendon passes over a joint, such as the hand, knee, and foot. Functionally, they act to protect the tendon and to increase its mechanical effect. The presence of the sesamoid bone holds the...

s in their paws that serve as an extra "thumb" while others, such as the meerkat
The meerkat or suricate, Suricata suricatta, is a small mammal belonging to the mongoose family. Meerkats live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in much of the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and in South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a "mob", "gang" or "clan"...

, uses their limbs primary for digging and have vestigial first digits.
The arboreal two-toed sloth
Two-toed sloth
Choloepus is a genus of mammals of Central and South America, within the family Megalonychidae consisting of two-toed sloths. There are only two species of Choloepus : Linnaeus's Two-toed Sloth and Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth...

, a South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

n mammal in the order pilosa
The order Pilosa is a group of placental mammals, extant today only in the Americas. It includes the anteaters and sloths, including the recently extinct ground sloths....

, have limbs so highly adapted to hanging in branches that it is unable to walk on the ground where it has to drag its own body using the large curved claws on its foredigits.
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