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J Exp Biol., 1997; 200(Pt 16): 2177-88, PMID: 9286099

Mechanics of locomotion in lizards

Year: 1997

Farley CT, Ko TC
Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley 94720-3140, USA.


Lizards bend their trunks laterally with each step of locomotion and, as a result, their locomotion appears to be fundamentally different from mammalian locomotion. The goal of the present study was to determine whether lizards use the same two basic gaits as other legged animals or whether they use a mechanically unique gait due to lateral trunk bending. Force platform and kinematic measurements revealed that two species of lizards, Coleonyx variegatus and Eumeces skiltonianus, used two basic gaits similar to mammalian walking and trotting gaits. In both gaits, the kinetic energy fluctuations due to lateral movements of the center of mass were less than 5% of the total external mechanical energy fluctuations. In the walking gait, both species vaulted over their stance limbs like inverted pendulums. The fluctuations in kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy of the center of mass were approximately 180 degrees out of phase. The lizards conserved as much as 51% of the external mechanical energy required for locomotion by the inverted pendulum mechanism. Both species also used a bouncing gait, similar to mammalian trotting, in which the fluctuations in kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy of the center of mass were nearly exactly in phase. The mass-specific external mechanical work required to travel 1 m (1.5 J kg-1) was similar to that for other legged animals. Thus, in spite of marked lateral bending of the trunk, the mechanics of lizard locomotion is similar to the mechanics of locomotion in other legged animals.

GID: 97; Last update: 16.12.2007