The jump as a fast mode of locomotion in arboreal and terrestrial biotopes

Z Morphol Anthropol. 1991;78(3):341-72.


The jump is always used for locomotion. For its execution in arboreal and terrestrial biotopes the requirements are of somewhat different nature. In an arboreal biotope the jump is characterized by a rapid progression through discontinuous substrates and the ability to take off from a small area and a secure landing on a spot. This requires well coordinated movements in all phases of the jump. On the ground, the jump is less frequent and often used for crossing obstacles or gaps. In primates both variants can be observed. In order to relate the details of locomotor behaviour to a certain environment, the biomechanics of jumping are analyzed in five primate species: The three mainly arboreal prosimian species Galago moholi, the smallest and most specialized leaper of all, Galago garnettii, a medium-sized bushbaby with some capacities for jumping, and Lemur catta also with some abilities to jump. The two simian species, Macaca fuscata and Homo sapiens, are usually terrestrial and have good jumping capacities, although not in terms of quantity. The investigation is based on high-speed motion analyses (100-500 frames/second) and the synchronized records of a force-plate from which all subjects had to jump off. On the basis of the results two kinds of jumping can be distinguished: standing and running jumps. The three prosimian species perform standing jumps. Dorsiflexion of their tails compensates ventrally oriented rotational moments of the trunk during body extension at take-off. The upward arm swing yields an overall increase in take-off velocity without additional muscular force exerted by the legs. The main difference among the species are the high relative forces in the small Galago moholi (up to 13 times body weight) as compared to the larger G. garnettii (8.5 times body weight) and the even larger Lemur catta (4.5 times body weight). In Homo sapiens the standing jump is characterized by an extensive arm swing backward, which is then followed by a forward and upward movement. The velocity at take-off is much smaller if compared to the prosimians. The running jump in Macaca fuscata is always preceded by at least one gallop cycle. The body assumes a ball shape at the beginning of the actual take-off. This is advantageous for rotating the body into a position in which the trunk axis is in line with the direction of movement. The tail of the Japanese macaque is too short to compensate the trunk's lift exerted on the hip region by the extending hindlimbs.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Galago / physiology*
  • Hominidae / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lemur / physiology*
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Macaca / physiology*
  • Male