Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 173, Issue 5, pp 509-517

First online:

Similarity in multilegged locomotion: Bouncing like a monopode

  • R. BlickhanAffiliated withUniversität des Saarlandes, Zoologie
  • , R. J. FullAffiliated withDepartment of Integrative Biology, University of California at Berkeley

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Despite impressive variation in leg number, length, position and type of skeleton, similarities of legged, pedestrian locomotion exist in energetics, gait, stride frequency and ground-reaction force. Analysis of data available in the literature showed that a bouncing, spring-mass, monopode model can approximate the energetics and dynamics of trotting, running, and hopping in animals as diverse as cockroaches, quail and kangaroos. From an animal's mechanical-energy fluctuation and ground-reaction force, we calculated the compression of a virtual monopode's leg and its stiffness. Comparison of dimensionless parameters revealed that locomotor dynamics depend on gait and leg number and not on body mass. Relative stiffness per leg was similar for all animals and appears to be a very conservative quantity in the design of legged locomotor systems. Differences in the general dynamics of gait are based largely on the number of legs acting simultaneously to determine the total stiffness of the system. Four- and six-legged trotters had a greater whole body stiffness than two-legged runners operating their systems at about the same relative speed. The greater whole body stiffness in trotters resulted in a smaller compression of the virtual leg and a higher natural frequency and stride frequency.

Key words

Legs Locomotion Stiffness Energetics Mechanics