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J Exp Biol. 1982 Apr;97:41-56.

Energetics and mechanics of terrestrial locomotion. III. Energy changes of the centre of mass as a function of speed and body size in birds and mammals.


This is the third in a series of four papers examining the link between the energetics and mechanics of terrestrial locomotion. It reports measurements of the mechanical work required (ECM, tot) to lift and reaccelerate an animal's centre of mass within each step as a function of speed and body size during level, constant average speed locomotion. A force platform was used in this study to measure ECM, tot for small bipeds, quadrupeds and hoppers. We have already published similar data from large animals. The total power required to lift and reaccelerate the centre of mass (ECM, tot) increased nearly linearly with speed for all the animals. Expressed in mass-specific terms, it was independent of body size and could be expressed by a simple equation: ECM, tot/Mb = 0.685 vg + 0.072 where ECM, tot/Mb has the units of W kg-1 and vg is speed in m s-1. Walking involves the same pendulum-like mechanism in small animals as has been described in humans and large animals. Also, running, trotting and hopping produce similar curves of ECM, tot as a function of time during a stride for both the small and large animals. Galloping, however, appears to be different in small and large animals. In small animals the front legs are used mainly for braking, while the back legs are used to reaccelerate the centre of mass within a stride. In large animals the front and hind legs serve to both brake and reaccelerate the animal; this difference in mechanics is significant in that it does not allow the utilization of elastic energy in the legs of small animals, but does in the legs of large animals.

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