Locomotion is precarious in an arboreal habitat, where supports can vary in both diameter and level of compliance. Several previous studies have evaluated the influence of substrate diameter on the locomotor performance of arboreal quadrupeds. The influence of substrate compliance, however, has been mostly unexamined. Here, we used a multifactorial experimental design to investigate how perturbations in both diameter and compliance affect the gait kinematics of marmosets (Callithrix jacchus; N=2) moving over simulated arboreal substrates. We used 3D-calibrated video to quantify marmoset locomotion over a horizontal trackway consisting of variably sized poles (5, 2.5 and 1.25 cm in diameter), analyzing a total of 120 strides. The central portion of the trackway was either immobile or mounted on compliant foam blocks, depending on condition. We found that narrowing diameter and increasing compliance were both associated with relatively longer substrate contact durations, though adjustments to diameter were often inconsistent relative to compliance-related adjustments. Marmosets also responded to narrowing diameter by reducing speed, flattening center of mass (CoM) movements and dampening support displacement on the compliant substrate. For the subset of strides on the compliant support, we found that speed, contact duration and CoM amplitude explained >60% of the variation in substrate displacement over a stride, suggesting a direct performance advantage to these kinematic adjustments. Overall, our results show that compliant substrates can exert a significant influence on gait kinematics. Substrate compliance, and not just support diameter, should be considered a critical environmental variable when evaluating locomotor performance in arboreal quadrupeds.
The authors declare no competing or financial interests.
J.W.Y. and B.A.C. designed the experiment and collected the data; B.A.C. and B.M.S. analyzed the data; J.W.Y. and B.A.C. drafted the manuscript.
This research was supported by the National Science Foundation [BCS-1126790] and the NEOMED Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology.
Supplementary information available online at http://jeb.biologists.org/lookup/doi/10.1242/jeb.140939.supplemental
- Received March 25, 2016.
- Accepted June 21, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd