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Abstract

The coordination of limb movements during mammalian locomotion has been well documented in the literature. Most mammals use lateral sequence (LS) gaits, in which a forelimb follows an ipsilateral hind limb during the stride cycle. Primates, however, tend to utilize diagonal sequence (DS) gaits, whereby a contralateral forelimb follows a given hind limb during the stride cycle. A number of scenarios have been offered to explain why primates favor DS gaits, most of them relating to the use of the arboreal habitat and, in particular, the exploitation of a terminal branch niche. Yet to date, there is surprisingly little evidence to support the advantage of DS gaits for negotiating different aspects of the terminal branch environment. Nonetheless, it is apparent that primates possess unique morphologies and a higher than typically recognized degree of flexibility in gait sequence pattern, both of which likely offer advantages for moving upon discontinuous and unstable terminal branches. This paper reviews potential explanations for the use of DS gaits in primates and considers mechanisms by which gait sequence may be altered during different types of arboreal challenges. J. Exp. Zool. 305A, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.