A crucial aspect of comparative biomechanical research is the center of mass (CoM) estimation in animal locomotion scenarios. Important applications include the parameter estimation of locomotion models, the discrimination of gaits, or the calculation of mechanical work during locomotion. Several methods exist to approximate the CoM position, e.g. force-plate-based approaches, kinematic approaches, or the reaction board method. However, they all share the drawback of not being suitable for large scale studies, as detailed initial conditions from kinematics are required (force-plates), manual interaction is necessary (kinematic approach), or only static settings can be analyzed (reaction board). For the increasingly popular case of X-ray-based animal locomotion analysis, we present an alternative approach for CoM estimation which overcomes these shortcomings. The main idea is to only use the recorded X-ray images, and to map each pixel to the mass of matter it represents. As a consequence, our approach is surgically noninvasive, independent of animal species and locomotion characteristics, and neither requires prior knowledge nor any kind of user interaction. To assess the quality of our approach, we conducted a comparison to highly accurate reaction board experiments for lapwing and rat cadavers, and achieved an average accuracy of 2.6mm (less than 2% of the animal body length). We additionally verified the practical applicability of the algorithm by comparison to a previously published CoM study which is based on the kinematic method, yielding comparable results.
Keywords: Animal locomotion; Center of mass; Computer vision; X-ray motion analysis.
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