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A limb (from the Old English lim), or extremity, is a jointed bodily appendage that humans and many other animals use for locomotion such as walking, running, and swimming, or for prehensile grasping or climbing. In the human body, arms and legs are commonly called upper limbs and lower limbs, respectively. Arms are connected to the torso or trunk at the shoulder and legs are connected at the hip girdles.[1] Many animals can use their forelimbs (which are homologous to arms in humans) to carry and manipulate objects, while some can use them to fly. Some animals can also use hind limbs for manipulation.

Human legs and feet are specialized for two-legged locomotion – most other mammals walk and run on all four limbs. Human arms are weaker, but very mobile, allowing them to reach at a wide range of distances and angles, and end in specialized hands capable of grasping and fine manipulation of objects. Though human dexterity is relatively unique, grasping behavior is widespread among tetrapods.[2]


The overall patterns of the forelimbs and hindlimbs are so similar ancestrally, and branch out in similar ways; that they are given shared names. Limbs are attached to the pectoral girdle or pelvic girdle. The one bony element of the upper limb is the stylopodium, the two bones of the lower limb are the zeugopodium. The distal portion of the limbs, that is, the hands or feet, are known as autopodia. Hands are technically known as the manus, and feet as the pes, which are both composed of carpals and digits. As metapodials, the metacarpals and metatarsals are analogous to each other.[3]


Main article: Limb development

Limb development is controlled by Hox genes. All jawed vertebrates surveyed so far organize their developing limb buds in a similar way. Growth occurs from proximal to distal part of the limb. On the distal end, the differentiation of skeletal elements occurs in an apical ectodermal ridge (AER) which expands in rays. A Zone of Polarizing Activity (ZPA) at the rear part of the AER coordinates the differentiation of digits.[3]

See also


  1. ^ "Limb". Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  2. ^ Sustaita, Diego; Pouydebat, Emmanuelle; Manzano, Adriana; Abdala, Virginia; Hertel, Fritz; Herrel, Anthony (2013-01-03). "Getting a grip on tetrapod grasping: Form, function, and evolution". Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. 88 (2): 380–405. doi:10.1111/brv.12010. PMID 23286759. S2CID 10023388.
  3. ^ a b "GEOL431 - Vertebrate Paleobiology". Retrieved 2019-12-20.