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Proc Biol Sci. 1998 Jul 7;265(1402):1227-35.

The biomechanics of skipping gaits: a third locomotion paradigm?

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Department of Physiology, Istituto Tecnologie Biomediche Avanzate C.N.R., Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Segrate, MI, Italy.


Skipping, a gait children display when they are about four- to five-years-old, is revealed to be more than a behavioural peculiarity. By means of metabolic and biomechanical measurements at several speeds, the relevance of skipping is shown to extend from links between bipedal and quadrupedal locomotion (namely galloping) to understanding why it could be a gait of choice in low-gravity conditions, and to some aspects of locomotion evolution (ground reaction forces of skipping seem to originate from pushing the walking gait to unnaturally high speeds). When the time-courses of mechanical energy and the horizontal ground reaction force are considered, a different locomotion paradigm emerges, enabling us to separate, among the bouncing gaits, the trot from the gallop (quadrupeds) and running from skipping (bipeds). The simultaneous use of pendulum-like and elastic mechanisms in skipping gaits, as shown by the energy curve analysis, helps us to understand the low cost of transport of galloping quadrupeds.

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