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Whole-body mechanics and kinematics of terrestrial locomotion in the Elegant-crested Tinamou Eudromia elegans


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Whereas humans and certain birds experience an abrupt change in locomotor dynamics when shifting from walks to runs, a smooth walk–run transition characterizes many ground-dwelling birds. This study defines the biomechanical distinction between walks and runs in the Elegant-crested Tinamou Eudromia elegans using ground reaction forces. Three birds were filmed at 250 Hz from a lateral view as they moved over a force plate built into a trackway. Centre of mass mechanics and kinematic variables were analysed in 81 steady-speed trials that represented a speed range from 0.66 to 2.78 m/s. E. elegans undergoes two speed-related changes in locomotor mechanics. The first is a shift from walking strides that utilize vaulting mechanics to low-speed runs that exhibit bouncing mechanics; this transition occurs at Froude numbers between 0.4 and 0.6. Such low-speed runs exhibit duty factors exceeding 0.5 and, hence, lack an aerial phase between steps. The second transition, from grounded running to aerial running, occurs when duty factors decrease below 0.5. Grounded running in birds may enhance vision by stabilizing visual stimuli over the retina. The eventual incorporation of an aerial phase during running enables increased locomotor speeds primarily through longer stride lengths.