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J Exp Biol. 2001 Feb;204(Pt 4):797-803.

Energetics of terrestrial locomotion of the platypus Ornithorhynchus anatinus.

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Department of Biology, West Chester University, West Chester, PA 19383, USA.


The platypus Ornithorhynchus anatinus Shaw displays specializations in its limb structure for swimming that could negatively affect its terrestrial locomotion. Platypuses walked on a treadmill at speeds of 0.19-1.08 m x s(-1). Video recordings were used for gait analysis, and the metabolic rate of terrestrial locomotion was studied by measuring oxygen consumption. Platypuses used walking gaits (duty factor >0.50) with a sprawled stance. To limit any potential interference from the extensive webbing on the forefeet, platypuses walk on their knuckles. Metabolic rate increased linearly over a 2.4-fold range with increasing walking speed in a manner similar to that of terrestrial mammals, but was low as a result of the relatively low standard metabolic rate of this monotreme. The dimensionless cost of transport decreased with increasing speed to a minimum of 0.79. Compared with the cost of transport for swimming, the metabolic cost for terrestrial locomotion was 2.1 times greater. This difference suggests that the platypus may pay a price in terrestrial locomotion by being more aquatically adapted than other semi-aquatic or terrestrial mammals.

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