Mechanisms of stick insect locomotion in a gap-crossing paradigm

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2004 Mar;190(3):173-83. doi: 10.1007/s00359-003-0482-3. Epub 2004 Jan 20.


Locomotion of stick insects climbing over gaps of more than twice their step length has proved to be a useful paradigm to investigate how locomotor behaviour is adapted to external conditions. In this study, swing amplitudes and extreme positions of single steps from gap-crossing sequences have been analysed and compared to corresponding parameters of undisturbed walking. We show that adaptations of the basic mechanisms concern movements of single legs as well as the coordination between the legs. Slowing down of stance velocity, searching movements of legs in protraction and the generation of short steps are crucial prerequisites in the gap-crossing task. The rules of leg coordination described for stick insect walking seem to be modified, and load on the supporting legs is assumed to have a major effect on coordination especially in slow walking. Stepping into the gap with a front leg and antennal contact with the far edge of the gap provide information, as both events influence the following leg movements, whereas antennal "non-contact" seems not to contain information. Integration of these results into the model of the walking controller can improve our understanding of insect locomotion in highly irregular environments.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Extremities / physiology*
  • Gait / physiology
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Orthoptera
  • Stereotyped Behavior
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Wings, Animal / physiology