Digit clearance patterns in primates vary by limb and substrate reflecting different strategies between arboreal and terrestrial locomotion

Daniel Schmitt*, Angel Zeininger, Pierre Lemelin, Charlotte E Miller, Michael C. Granatosky, Jandy Hanna, Roshna Wunderlich, Tracy Kivell, Michael D. Rose, Jean Turnquist

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstractpeer-review

Abstract

During swing phase of walking, animals are faced with the challenge of keeping digits clear from the substrate. On the ground, animals can flex or abduct the limbs, strategies that shorten effective limb length during the swing phase and require muscular effort. On a branch or pole, however, primates can allow their long limbs to swing below the substrate, lengthening the swinging limb and increasing limb protraction, while allowing for flexion and compliance of the supporting limb. This pattern was suggested in several early studies carried out at the SBU Locomotion Lab, but was never tested. We examine digit clearance patterns in 24 primate species, including chimpanzees and gorillas, and10 arboreal and terrestrial non-primate mammal species. On poles, almost all species swing their forelimb slightly to the side of the support and allow the hand to drop alongside or below the level of the pole. However, the swinging hind-limb is relatively more abducted and flexed and the foot remains most often at or above the level of the pole. On the ground, animals often use abducted limbs, especially great apes, and flexed limb joints to provide ample clearance of the hand and foot. Hindlimb similarities between ground and pole suggest that hindlimb motion may be constrained by the risk of interfering with the supporting hand. Shifts in forelimb behavior from ground to pole, along with other changes in forelimb function may represent a key mechanical adaptation for arboreal locomotion, providing a wide swing arc with limited muscular effort.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2018

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