Ontogeny of bipedal locomotion: walking and running in the chick

J Physiol. 1996 Jun 1;493 ( Pt 2)(Pt 2):589-601. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1996.sp021406.


1. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the production of an energy-efficient bipedal walk is an innate attribute of a precocial bird. 2. The locomotor characteristics of hatchling chicks were quantified using kinetic (ground reaction forces) and kinematic (stride length, leg support duration) measurements as the animals moved overground unrestrained. All measurements were made over a range of velocities and at regular intervals throughout the first 2 weeks of life. 3. Ground reaction force records showed that, like all terrestrial walking vertebrates, chicks undergo cyclical increases and decreases in the body's potential and kinetic energy with each step. The out-of-phase exchange of potential with kinetic energy is an efficient mechanism for the conservation of energy during walking. However, comparisons between chicks at posthatching (P) days 1-2 and P14 revealed that P1-2 chicks are unable to conserve energy because they walk with disproportionately small potential energy oscillations. During running, however, the oscillations between potential and kinetic energy are similar for both P1-2 and P14 animals. 4. P1-2 chicks also walk with a shorter stride length than P14 chicks. Examination of limb support durations shows that younger animals (P1-2, P3) spend less time in single limb support than P14 animals during walking but not running. 5. The results show that even highly precocial bipeds need to acquire the ability to walk in a controlled and energy efficient manner, although they can innately run as well as an adult. This disparity could be due to the distinct actions of the legs in these two behaviours, and the requirement for longer durations of single leg support during walking. These differences relate to constraints inherent to bipedal locomotion and many of the locomotor changes occurring in the first weeks after hatching may therefore be analogous to similar changes seen during human locomotor development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Chickens / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Female
  • Kinetics
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Running
  • Walking