Prehensile kinematics of the marmoset monkey: Implications for the evolution of visually-guided behaviors

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Throughout the primate lineage, there is a wide diversity of prehensile capacity that is thought to stem from individual species foraging patterns. While many studies have explored primates with precise hand grips, such as higher apes, few have considered primates that lack opposition movements. The New World marmoset monkey occupies an intriguing niche, displaying adept control of their hand movements yet their absence of opposable digits results in relatively imprecise grasping actions when compared with those observed in Old World monkeys, apes, and humans. The marmoset monkey offers a unique composition of ancestral primate corticospinal organization combined with skilled hand use to explore the evolution and development of visually-guided actions. In this study, four adult marmosets were trained to perform a series of visually-guided tasks, designed to assess their control over locating and retrieving objects of differing dimensions. Two of these animals received a neonatal lesion of the inferior pulvinar (unilateral), a thalamic nucleus previously demonstrated to be involved in visuomotor development. The kinematics of their reaching and grasping patterns were recorded for offline analysis. Predictive modeling revealed that maximum grip aperture, time to reach peak velocity and hand use were reliable predictors of distinguishing between cohorts. A consistent feature observed across all tasks was that they do not precisely scale their grip according to the dimensions of the target object which may be attributed to their lack of independent digit control. Therefore, the marmoset monkey represents a previously understudied position in the evolution of primate reach and grasp behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1495-1507
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2019


  • behavior
  • Callithrix jacchus
  • evolution
  • primate
  • pulvinar
  • RRID:SCR_001622
  • RRID:SCR_002798
  • visuomotor

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