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Ground reaction forces and center of mass mechanics of bipedal capuchin monkeys: Implications for the evolution of human bipedalism



Tufted capuchin monkeys are known to use both quadrupedalism and bipedalism in their natural environments. Although previous studies have investigated limb kinematics and metabolic costs, their ground reaction forces (GRFs) and center of mass (CoM) mechanics during two and four-legged locomotion are unknown. Here, we determine the hind limb GRFs and CoM energy, work, and power during bipedalism and quadrupedalism over a range of speeds and gaits to investigate the effect of differential limb number on locomotor performance. Our results indicate that capuchin monkeys use a “grounded run” during bipedalism (0.83–1.43 ms−1) and primarily ambling and galloping gaits during quadrupedalism (0.91–6.0 ms−1). CoM energy recoveries are quite low during bipedalism (2–17%), and in general higher during quadrupedalism (4–72%). Consistent with this, hind limb vertical GRFs as well as CoM work, power, and collisional losses are higher in bipedalism than quadrupedalism. The positive CoM work is 2.04 ± 0.40 Jkg−1 m−1 (bipedalism) and 0.70 ± 0.29 Jkg−1 m−1 (quadrupedalism), which is within the range of published values for two and four-legged terrestrial animals. The results of this study confirm that facultative bipedalism in capuchins and other nonhuman primates need not be restricted to a pendulum-like walking gait, but rather can include running, albeit without an aerial phase. Based on these results and similar studies of other facultative bipeds, we suggest that important transitions in the evolution of hominin locomotor performance were the emergences of an obligate, pendulum-like walking gait and a bouncy running gait that included a whole-body aerial phase. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.