Gait characteristics and spatio-temporal variables of climbing in bonobos (Pan paniscus)

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Schoonaert, Kirsten ; D'Aout, Kristiaan ; Samuel, Diana ; Talloen, Willem ; Nauwelaerts, Sandra ; Kivell, Tracy L. ; Aerts, Peter (2016)

Although much is known about the terrestrial locomotion of great apes, their arboreal locomotion has been studied less extensively. This study investigates arboreal locomotion in bonobos (Pan paniscus), focusing on the gait characteristics and spatio-temporal variables associated with locomotion on a pole. These features are compared across different substrate inclinations (0°, 30°, 45°, 60°, and 90°), and horizontal quadrupedal walking is compared between an arboreal and a terrestrial substrate. Our results show greater variation in footfall patterns with increasing incline, resulting in more lateral gait sequences. During climbing on arboreal inclines, smaller steps and strides but higher stride frequencies and duty factors are found compared to horizontal arboreal walking. This may facilitate better balance control and dynamic stability on the arboreal substrate. We found no gradual change in spatio-temporal variables with increasing incline; instead, the results for all inclines were clustered together. Bonobos take larger strides at lower stride frequencies and lower duty factors on a horizontal arboreal substrate than on a flat terrestrial substrate. We suggest that these changes are the result of the better grip of the grasping feet on an arboreal substrate. Speed modulation of the spatio-temporal variables is similar across substrate inclinations and between substrate types, suggesting a comparable underlying motor control. Finally, we contrast these variables of arboreal inclined climbing with those of terrestrial bipedal locomotion, and briefly discuss the results with respect to the origin of habitual bipedalism. Am. J. Primatol.
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