Kinetics of leaping primates: influence of substrate orientation and compliance

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1995 Apr;96(4):419-29. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.1330960407.


Our current knowledge about the forces leapers generate and absorb is very limited and based exclusively on rigid force platform measurements. In their natural environments, however, leapers take off and land on branches and tree trunks, and these may be compliant. We evaluated the influence of substrate properties on leaping kinetics in prosimian leapers by using a combined field and laboratory approach. Tree sway and the timing of takeoffs relative to the movements of trees were documented for animals under natural conditions in Madagascar. Field data collected on three species (Indri indri, Propithecus diadema, Propithecus verreauxi) indicate that in the majority of takeoffs, the substrate sways and the animals takeoff before the elastic rebound of the substrate. This implies that force is "wasted" to deform supports. Takeoff and landing forces were measured in an experimental setting with a compliant force pole at the Duke University Primate Center. Forces were recorded for 2 Propithecus verreauxi and 3 Hapalemur griseus. Peak takeoff forces were 9.6 (P. verreauxi) and 10.3 (H. griseus) times body weight, whereas peak landing forces were 6.7 (P. verreauxi) and 8.4 (H. griseus) times body weight. As part of the impulse generated does not translate into leaping distance but is used to deform the pole, greater effort is required to reach a given target substrate, and, consequently, takeoff forces are high. The landing forces, on the other hand, are damped by the pole/substrate yield that increases the time available for deceleration. Our results contrast with previous studies of leaping forces recorded with rigid platform measuring systems that usually report higher landing than takeoff forces. We conclude that 1) Leapers generate and are exposed to exceptionally high locomotory forces. The takeoff forces are higher than the landing forces when using compliant supports, indicating that the takeoff rather than the landing may be critical in interpreting leaping behavior and related aspects of musculoskeletal design. 2) Large-bodied vertical clingers and leapers do not usually take advantage of the elastic energy stored in substrates. Rather, force (and energy) is wasted to deform compliant supports. 3) A compliant force pole approximates the conditions faced by large-bodied vertical clingers and leapers in the wild more closely than do rigid force platforms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Body Weight
  • Compliance
  • Kinetics
  • Locomotion*
  • Strepsirhini / physiology*
  • Trees
  • Videotape Recording