Gait kinetics of above- and below-branch quadrupedal locomotion in lemurid primates.
For primates and other mammals moving on relatively thin branches, the ability to effectively adopt both above- and below-branch locomotion is seen as critical for successful arboreal locomotion, and has been considered an important step prior to the evolution of specialized suspensory locomotion within our Order. Yet, little information exists on the ways in which limb mechanics change when animals shift from above- to below-branch quadrupedal locomotion. This study tested the hypothesis that vertical force magnitude and distribution do not vary between locomotor modes, but that the propulsive and braking roles of the forelimb change when animals shift from above- to below-branch quadrupedal locomotion. We collected kinetic data on two lemur species (Varecia variegata and Lemur catta) walking above and below an instrumented arboreal runway. Values for peak vertical, braking and propulsive forces as well as horizontal impulses were collected for each limb. When walking below branch, both species demonstrated a significant shift in limb kinetics compared with above-branch movement. The forelimb became both the primary weight-bearing limb and propulsive organ, while the hindlimb reduced its weight-bearing role and became the primary braking limb. This shift in force distribution represents a shift toward mechanics associated with bimanual suspensory locomotion, a locomotor mode unusual to primates and central to human evolution. The ability to make this change is not accompanied by significant anatomical changes, and thus likely represents an underlying mechanical flexibility present in most primates.
Granatosky, MC; Tripp, CH; Schmitt, D
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