Kinematics of bipedalism in Propithecus verreauxi


Roshna E. Wunderlich, Department of Biology, MSC 7801, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 228070, USA. Tel: 540 568 6930; Fax: 540 568 3333


Bipedalism is rare in primates and has evolved in two distantly related groups: hominoids and indrids. Although copious data are available on the mechanics of bipedal locomotion in hominoids and vertical clinging and leaping (VCL) in indrids, no research has addressed the unique mode of bipedal locomotion exhibited by select indrid primates. Propithecus verreauxi is a highly specialized indrid vertical clinger and leaper that uses a peculiar form of bipedalism on the ground. The objectives of this study were to describe the bipedal gait of Propithecus, to assess the influence of VCL specializations on the kinematic patterns and propulsion mechanisms used by Propithecus during bipedalism, and to compare Propithecus bipedalism with the bipedal gaits of other primates capable of using bipedalism. Video was collected of five adult P. verreauxi moving bipedally in a seminatural setting at the Duke University Primate Center. Duty factor, footfall patterns, joint angles and center of mass movement were quantified in the sagittal plane for 73 steps. Propithecus uses a bipedal gallop, a gait unique to Propithecus. The kinematic similarities (e.g. large hip and knee angular excursions and preparatory countermovements) between bipedal galloping and VCL lead us to suggest that Propithecus takes advantage of specializations for VCL to conserve energy during bipedal galloping. Propithecus also walks bipedally at slower speeds. When Propithecus walks, it utilizes a relatively compliant gait similar to that of other primate facultative bipeds (Pan, Hylobates). During bipedal walking, energy conservation may be sacrificed for increased balance and reduced joint loads.