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J Exp Biol. 2003 Nov;206(Pt 22):3923-34.

Effects of loading and size on maximum power output and gait characteristics in geckos.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 310 Dinwiddie Hall, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA.


Stride length, stride frequency and power output are all factors influencing locomotor performance. Here, we first test whether mass-specific power output limits climbing performance in two species of geckos (Hemidactylus garnoti and Gekko gecko) by adding external loads to their bodies. We then test whether body size has a negative effect on mass-specific power output. Finally, we test whether loading affects kinematics in both gecko species. Lizards were induced to run vertically on a smooth wooden surface with loads of 0-200% of body mass (BM) in H. garnoti and 0-100% BM in G. gecko. For each stride, we calculated angular and linear kinematics (e.g. trunk angle, stride length), performance (maximum speed) and mean mass-specific power output per stride. The addition of increasingly large loads caused an initial increase in maximum mass-specific power output in both species, but for H. garnoti, mass-specific power output remained constant at higher loads (150% and 200% BM), even though maximum velocity declined. This result, in combination with the fact that stride frequency showed no evidence of leveling off as speed increased in either species, suggests that power limits maximum speed. In addition, the large gecko (G. gecko) produced significantly less power than the smaller H. garnoti, despite the fact that both species ran at similar speeds. This difference disappeared, however, when we recalculated power output based on higher maximum speeds for unloaded G. gecko moving vertically obtained by other researchers. Finally, the addition of external loads did not affect speed modulation in either species: both G. gecko and H. garnoti increase speed primarily by increasing stride frequency, regardless of loading condition. For a given speed, both species take shorter but more strides with heavier loads, but for a given load, G. gecko attains similar speeds to H. garnoti by taking longer but fewer strides.

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