Locomotor mechanics of the slender loris (Loris tardigradus).
The quadrupedal walking gaits of most primates can be distinguished from those of most other mammals by the presence of diagonal-sequence (DS) footfall patterns and higher peak vertical forces on the hindlimbs compared to the forelimbs. The walking gait of the woolly opossum (Caluromys philander), a highly arboreal marsupial, is also characterized by diagonal-sequence footfalls and relatively low peak forelimb forces. Among primates, three species--Callithrix, Nycticebus, and Loris--have been reported to frequently use lateral-sequence (LS) gaits and experience relatively higher peak vertical forces on the forelimbs. These patterns among primates and other mammals suggest a strong association between footfall patterns and force distribution on the limbs. However, current data for lorises are limited and the frequency of DS vs. LS walking gaits in Loris is still ambiguous. To test the hypothesis that patterns of footfalls and force distribution on the limbs are functionally linked, kinematic and kinetic data were collected simultaneously for three adult slender lorises (Loris tardigradus) walking on a 1.25 cm horizontal pole. All subjects in this study consistently used diagonal-sequence walking gaits and always had higher peak vertical forces on their forelimbs relative to their hindlimbs. These results call into question the hypothesis that a functional link exists between the presence of diagonal-sequence walking gaits and relatively higher peak vertical forces on the hindlimbs. In addition, this study tested models that explain patterns of force distribution based on limb protraction angle or limb compliance. None of the Loris subjects examined showed kinematic patterns that would support current models proposing that weight distribution can be adjusted by actively shifting weight posteriorly or by changing limb stiffness. These data reveal the complexity of adaptations to arboreal locomotion in primates and indicate that diagonal-sequence walking gaits and relatively low forelimb forces could have evolved independently.
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