The effect of substrate compliance on the biomechanics of gibbon leaps
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
The journal of experimental biology. - London
, p. 687-696
University of Antwerp
The storage and recovery of elastic strain energy in the musculoskeletal systems of locomoting animals has been extensively studied, yet the external environment represents a second potentially useful energy store that has often been neglected. Recent studies have highlighted the ability of orangutans to usefully recover energy from swaying trees to minimise the cost of gap crossing. Although mechanically similar mechanisms have been hypothesised for wild leaping primates, to date no such energy recovery mechanisms have been demonstrated biomechanically in leapers. We used a setup consisting of a forceplate and two high-speed video cameras to conduct a biomechanical analysis of captive gibbons leaping from stiff and compliant poles. We found that the gibbons minimised pole deflection by using different leaping strategies. Two leap types were used: slower orthograde leaps and more rapid pronograde leaps. The slower leaps used a wider hip joint excursion to negate the downward movement of the pole, using more impulse to power the leap, but with no increase in work done on the centre of mass. Greater hip excursion also minimised the effective leap distance during orthograde leaps. The more rapid leaps conversely applied peak force earlier in stance where the pole was effectively stiffer, minimising deflection and potential energy loss. Neither leap type appeared to usefully recover energy from the pole to increase leap performance, but the gibbons demonstrated an ability to best adapt their leap biomechanics to counter the negative effects of the compliant pole.