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Keywords:

  • primate;
  • jumping;
  • hylobates;
  • locomotion;
  • kinematics

Abstract

Gibbons are skilled brachiators but they are also highly capable leapers, crossing distances in excess of 10 m in the wild. Despite this impressive performance capability, no detailed biomechanical studies of leaping in gibbons have been undertaken to date. We measured ground reaction forces and derived kinematic parameters from high-speed videos during gibbon leaps in a captive zoo environment. We identified four distinct leap types defined by the number of feet used during take-off and the orientation of the trunk, orthograde single-footed, orthograde two-footed, orthograde squat, and pronograde single-footed leaps. The center of mass trajectories of three of the four leap types were broadly similar, with the pronograde single-footed leaps exhibiting less vertical displacement of the center of mass than the other three types. Mechanical energy at take-off was similar in all four leap types. The ratio of kinetic energy to mechanical energy was highest in pronograde single-footed leaps and similar in the other three leap types. The highest mechanical work and power were generated during orthograde squat leaps. Take-off angle decreased with take-off velocity and the hind limbs showed a proximal to distal extension sequence during take-off. In the forelimbs, the shoulder joints were always flexed at take-off, while the kinematics of the distal joints (elbow and wrist joints) were variable between leaps. It is possible that gibbons may utilize more metabolically expensive orthograde squat leaps when a safe landing is uncertain, while more rapid (less expensive) pronograde single-footed leaps might be used during bouts of rapid locomotion when a safe landing is more certain. Am J Phys Anthropol 143:403-416, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.