What puts the spring in a kangaroo’s step

March 10th, 2011 - 12:11 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Mar 10 (ANI): A new study from the Royal Veterinary College, London, the University of Idaho, the University of Queensland, and the University of Western Australia, is trying to find what is it that puts the lively spring in a kangaroo’s step.

Using an outdoor infrared motion-capture approach, the team has shown how the kangaroos’ bounds distribute forces along their legs and to the ground.

The study may lead to use this in veterinary medicine and for conservation.

“The team is interested in trying to understand how the group of kangaroos change their body posture and hopping mechanics with body size,” the BBC quoted Craig McGowan of the University of Idaho, as saying.

Infrared lights illuminate the subject, and an array of cameras tracks the motion of the markers.

“There are a number of species that, as they get larger, adopt more and more upright postures. That reduces the mechanical demands on the musculature - so it increases their ‘mechanical advantage’.”

The team is also attempting to measure the forces that the kangaroos’ feet exert on the ground - and thus that are transmitted through their legs - using what are known as force plates.

The team also captured the kangaroos’ movement using the traditional method of high-speed video.

“We want to know how are they able to hop fast - even when they are quite heavy - and not change posture,” said Alexis Wiktorowicz-Conroy at the Royal Veterinary College.

“That’s important, because these animals get really big, and we can’t really explain without this why their tendons and muscles don’t rupture at high speeds.

“People have started to look at that in ankle joints; we’re looking more at joints in hind limbs.”

The study also aims to find out how they move in such an efficient way.

“The kangaroos’ movement is really neat - at low speeds, they use their tail like a fifth limb, inching along like an inchworm, and that’s never been measured,” she said.

“As they move faster, they start to hop. Humans fatigue very easily when we do this, but the kangaroos don’t; they don’t expend much energy.

“Wallabies hop up large hills and don’t seem to behave in the same way. There’s quite a bit of variation (in the way the marsupials move), but all of them are more economical than you might predict.”

“There’s a lot we don’t know about them, and this is going to help study questions about hopping and animal locomotion in general,” she concluded. (ANI)

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