The differing limb dynamics and postures of small and large terrestrial animals may be mechanisms for minimising metabolic costs under scale-dependent muscle force, work and power demands; however, empirical evidence for this is lacking. Leghorn chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) are highly dimorphic: males have greater body mass and relative muscle mass than females, which are permanently gravid and have greater relative intestinal mass. Furthermore, leghorns are selected for standard (large) and bantam (small) varieties and the former are sexually dimorphic in posture, with females having a more upright limb. Here, high-speed videography and morphological measurements were used to examine the walking gaits of leghorn chickens of the two varieties and sexes. Hindlimb skeletal elements were geometrically similar among the bird groups, yet the bird groups did not move with dynamic similarity. In agreement with the interspecific scaling of relative duty factor (DF, the proportion of a stride period with ground contact for any given foot) with body mass, bantams walked with greater DF than standards, and females walked with greater DF than males. Greater DF in females than in males was achieved via variety-specific kinematic mechanisms, associated with the presence/absence of postural dimorphism. Females may require greater DF in order to reduce peak muscle forces and minimise power demands associated with lower muscle to reproductive tissue mass ratios and smaller body size. Furthermore, a more upright posture observed in the standard, but not bantam, females, may relate to minimising the work demands of being larger and having proportionally larger reproductive tissue volume. Lower DF in males relative to females may also be a work-minimising strategy and/or due to greater limb inertia (as a result of greater pelvic limb muscle mass) prolonging the swing phase.
The authors declare no competing or financial interests.
R.L.N., J.R.C. and K.A.R. designed the study and contributed to the manuscript. K.A.R. conducted the experiments and statistical analyses with advice from R.L.N. and J.R.C.
This research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (G01138/1 and 10021116/1 to J.R.C.). K.A.R. was supported by a Natural Environment Research Council DTA stipend and CASE partnership with the Manchester Museum.
- Received March 2, 2016.
- Accepted June 8, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd