Daniel Schmitt*, Pierre Lemelin, Charlotte E Miller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstractpeer-review


Mammal limbs display remarkable diversity in length, mass, and weight distribution, presumably reflecting different functional demands. To understand this variation, most biomechanical studies have focused on stance phase mechanics, while swing phase is relatively understudied. The rate of swing and the muscular effort required, which is determined by pendulum length and mass, can influence velocity and energetic costs. It is claimed that as animals move faster stance time shortens, but swing time stays relatively constant, suggesting that mechanical qualities of the limb constrain swing time. Although swing phase maybe constant for each species, the time it takes to swing the limb forward should vary as a function of anatomical differences between mammalian species. For example, primates that have relatively more distal weight distribution associated with prehensile hands and feet may experience longer swing times than other mammals. By calculating swing time in a range of mammals including humans, cats, kinkajous, coatis, lemurs, squirrel monkeys and several Old World monkeys, we test the hypotheses that (1) swing phase is constant in relation to speed in a wide range of mammals and (2) primates have relatively long swing durations. In every group within our sample stance duration decreases with increasing speed and swing duration remains nearly constant. However, regardless of body size or anatomy, there were no significant interspecific differences in swing duration. These data are interpreted in the context of variation in angular excursion across species, and suggest that swing phase duration is a limiting factor in locomotor performance in terms of speed, angular excursion, and limb angle at touchdown. Data on swing phase mechanics are critical to understanding the inherent trade-offs in limb design, and improve interpretations of limb anatomy and locomotor behavior in both living and fossil mammals.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2013


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