Comparison of spatiotemporal gait characteristics between vertical climbing and horizontal walking in primates.
During quadrupedal walking, most primates utilize diagonal-sequence diagonal-couplet gaits, large limb excursions and hindlimb-biased limb loading. These gait characteristics are thought to be basal to primates, but the selective pressure underlying these gait changes remains unknown. Some researchers have examined these characteristics during vertical climbing and propose that primate quadrupedal gait characteristics may have arisen due to the mechanical challenges of moving on vertical supports. Unfortunately, these studies are usually limited in scope and do not account for varying strategies based on body size or phylogeny. Here, we test the hypothesis that the spatiotemporal gait characteristics that are used during horizontal walking in primates are also present during vertical climbing irrespective of body size and phylogeny. We examined footfall patterns, diagonality, speed and stride length in eight species of primates across a range of body masses. We found that, during vertical climbing, primates slow down, keep more limbs in contact with the substrate at any one time, and increase the frequency of lateral-sequence gaits compared with horizontal walking. Taken together, these characteristics are assumed to increase stability during locomotion. Phylogenetic relatedness and body size differences have little influence on locomotor patterns observed across species. These data reject the idea that the suite of spatiotemporal gait features observed in primates during horizontal walking are in some way evolutionarily linked to selective pressures associated with mechanical requirements of vertical climbing. These results also highlight the importance of behavioral flexibility for negotiating the challenges of locomotion in an arboreal environment.
Granatosky, MC; Schmitt, D; Hanna, J
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