, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 649-669

Locomotion and Posture During Terminal Branch Feeding

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Abstract

We investigated locomotor and postural behavior during terminal branch feeding in order to gain a better understanding of the motor capabilities of primates. We videotaped wild, juvenile bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) in India as they fed on flower nectar in a simal tree (Bombax malabaricum). Kinematic analysis revealed that they select specific support surfaces and movements that, for their body design and postures, maximize lateral stability and minimize the chances of falling. These choices are made even though the distance and duration of travel to a selected target are frequently increased. Our discussion focuses on particular concepts of how primates contend with balance problems arboreally, potential reasons for changes in footfall patterns, and how the tail contributes to arboreal locomotion and posture. We concluded that balance problems due to the ratio of body size to branch size are usually avoided, at least among juvenile bonnet macaques, by placing the hands and feet on branches extending laterally from the central support branch and not on the central branch itself. The lateral branches permit a wide base of support, which increases lateral stability. Second, juvenile bonnet macaques have a striking ability to rapidly and repeatedly adapt their gait patterns to changing substrate design with minimal interruption to overall progression. Third, primate tails that are not morphologically specialized for prehension nevertheless have important prehensile and sensory functions in arboreal locomotion and posture.