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Concept: Locomotion


Birds still share many traits with their dinosaur ancestors, making them the best living group to reconstruct certain aspects of non-avian theropod biology. Bipedal, digitigrade locomotion and parasagittal hindlimb movement are some of those inherited traits. Living birds, however, maintain an unusually crouched hindlimb posture and locomotion powered by knee flexion, in contrast to the inferred primitive condition of non-avian theropods: more upright posture and limb movement powered by femur retraction. Such functional differences, which are associated with a gradual, anterior shift of the centre of mass in theropods along the bird line, make the use of extant birds to study non-avian theropod locomotion problematic. Here we show that, by experimentally manipulating the location of the centre of mass in living birds, it is possible to recreate limb posture and kinematics inferred for extinct bipedal dinosaurs. Chickens raised wearing artificial tails, and consequently with more posteriorly located centre of mass, showed a more vertical orientation of the femur during standing and increased femoral displacement during locomotion. Our results support the hypothesis that gradual changes in the location of the centre of mass resulted in more crouched hindlimb postures and a shift from hip-driven to knee-driven limb movements through theropod evolution. This study suggests that, through careful experimental manipulations during the growth phase of ontogeny, extant birds can potentially be used to gain important insights into previously unexplored aspects of bipedal non-avian theropod locomotion.

Concepts: Bird, Knee, Extinction, Locomotion, Dinosaur, Theropoda, Bipedalism, Archosaur


The running ability of Tyrannosaurus rex has been intensively studied due to its relevance to interpretations of feeding behaviour and the biomechanics of scaling in giant predatory dinosaurs. Different studies using differing methodologies have produced a very wide range of top speed estimates and there is therefore a need to develop techniques that can improve these predictions. Here we present a new approach that combines two separate biomechanical techniques (multibody dynamic analysis and skeletal stress analysis) to demonstrate that true running gaits would probably lead to unacceptably high skeletal loads in T. rex. Combining these two approaches reduces the high-level of uncertainty in previous predictions associated with unknown soft tissue parameters in dinosaurs, and demonstrates that the relatively long limb segments of T. rex-long argued to indicate competent running ability-would actually have mechanically limited this species to walking gaits. Being limited to walking speeds contradicts arguments of high-speed pursuit predation for the largest bipedal dinosaurs like T. rex, and demonstrates the power of multiphysics approaches for locomotor reconstructions of extinct animals.

Concepts: Locomotion, Dinosaur, Carnivore, Tyrannosaurus, Tyrannosauridae, Allosaurus


While there is broad agreement that early hominins practiced some form of terrestrial bipedality, there is also evidence that arboreal behavior remained a part of the locomotor repertoire in some taxa, and that bipedal locomotion may not have been identical to that of modern humans. It has been difficult to evaluate such evidence, however, because of the possibility that early hominins retained primitive traits (such as relatively long upper limbs) of little contemporaneous adaptive significance. Here we examine bone structural properties of the femur and humerus in the Australopithecus afarensis A.L. 288-1 (“Lucy”, 3.2 Myr) that are known to be developmentally plastic, and compare them with other early hominins, modern humans, and modern chimpanzees. Cross-sectional images were obtained from micro-CT scans of the original specimens and used to derive section properties of the diaphyses, as well as superior and inferior cortical thicknesses of the femoral neck. A.L. 288-1 shows femoral/humeral diaphyseal strength proportions that are intermediate between those of modern humans and chimpanzees, indicating more mechanical loading of the forelimb than in modern humans, and by implication, a significant arboreal locomotor component. Several features of the proximal femur in A.L. 288-1 and other australopiths, including relative femoral head size, distribution of cortical bone in the femoral neck, and cross-sectional shape of the proximal shaft, support the inference of a bipedal gait pattern that differed slightly from that of modern humans, involving more lateral deviation of the body center of mass over the support limb, which would have entailed increased cost of terrestrial locomotion. There is also evidence consistent with increased muscular strength among australopiths in both the forelimb and hind limb, possibly reflecting metabolic trade-offs between muscle and brain development during hominin evolution. Together these findings imply significant differences in both locomotor behavior and ecology between australopiths and later Homo.

Concepts: Human, Locomotion, Australopithecus afarensis, Hominina, Hominid, Bipedalism, Australopithecus, Ardipithecus


Mobile phone texting is a common daily occurrence with a paucity of research examining corresponding gait characteristics. To date, most studies have participants walk in a straight line vs. overcoming barriers and obstacles that occur during regular walking. The aim of our study is to examine the effect of mobile phone texting during periods of cognitive distraction while walking and negotiating barriers synonymous with pedestrian traffic.

Concepts: Mobile phone, Walking, Locomotion, Text messaging, Pedestrian, Walkability, Motorola, Racewalking


The quest to ‘forward-engineer’ and fabricate biological machines remains a grand challenge. Towards this end, we have fabricated locomotive “bio-bots” from hydrogels and cardiomyocytes using a 3D printer. The multi-material bio-bot consisted of a ‘biological bimorph’ cantilever structure as the actuator to power the bio-bot, and a base structure to define the asymmetric shape for locomotion. The cantilever structure was seeded with a sheet of contractile cardiomyocytes. We evaluated the locomotive mechanisms of several designs of bio-bots by changing the cantilever thickness. The bio-bot that demonstrated the most efficient mechanism of locomotion maximized the use of contractile forces for overcoming friction of the supporting leg, while preventing backward movement of the actuating leg upon relaxation. The maximum recorded velocity of the bio-bot was ~236 µm s(-1), with an average displacement per power stroke of ~354 µm and average beating frequency of ~1.5 Hz.

Concepts: Force, Velocity, Cylinder, Walking, Cantilever, Locomotion, Quest, Bore


The experts of animal locomotion well know the characteristics of quadruped walking since the pioneering work of Eadweard Muybridge in the 1880s. Most of the quadrupeds advance their legs in the same lateral sequence when walking, and only the timing of their supporting feet differ more or less. How did this scientific knowledge influence the correctness of quadruped walking depictions in the fine arts? Did the proportion of erroneous quadruped walking illustrations relative to their total number (i.e. error rate) decrease after Muybridge? How correctly have cavemen (upper palaeolithic Homo sapiens) illustrated the walking of their quadruped prey in prehistoric times? The aim of this work is to answer these questions. We have analyzed 1000 prehistoric and modern artistic quadruped walking depictions and determined whether they are correct or not in respect of the limb attitudes presented, assuming that the other aspects of depictions used to determine the animals gait are illustrated correctly. The error rate of modern pre-Muybridgean quadruped walking illustrations was 83.5%, much more than the error rate of 73.3% of mere chance. It decreased to 57.9% after 1887, that is in the post-Muybridgean period. Most surprisingly, the prehistoric quadruped walking depictions had the lowest error rate of 46.2%. All these differences were statistically significant. Thus, cavemen were more keenly aware of the slower motion of their prey animals and illustrated quadruped walking more precisely than later artists.

Concepts: Human, Walking, Locomotion, Art, Paleolithic, Stone Age, Prehistory, Correctness


Pedestrians regularly engage with their mobile phone whilst walking. The current study investigated how mobile phone use affects where people look (visual search behaviour) and how they negotiate a floor based hazard placed along the walking path. Whilst wearing a mobile eye tracker and motion analysis sensors, participants walked up to and negotiated a surface height change whilst writing a text, reading a text, talking on the phone, or without a phone. Differences in gait and visual search behaviour were found when using a mobile phone compared to when not using a phone. Using a phone resulted in looking less frequently and for less time at the surface height change, which led to adaptations in gait by negotiating it in a manner consistent with adopting an increasingly cautious stepping strategy. When using a mobile phone, writing a text whilst walking resulted in the greatest adaptions in gait and visual search behaviour compared to reading a text and talking on a mobile phone. Findings indicate that mobile phone users were able to adapt their visual search behaviour and gait to incorporate mobile phone use in a safe manner when negotiating floor based obstacles.

Concepts: Mobile phone, Walking, Adaptation, Locomotion, Automobile, Pedestrian, Walkability, Sustainable transport


The two major modes of locomotion in humans, walking and running, may be regarded as a function of different speed (walking as slower and running as faster). Recent results using motor learning tasks in humans, as well as more direct evidence from animal models, advocate for independence in the neural control mechanisms underlying different locomotion tasks. In the current study, we investigated the possible independence of the neural mechanisms underlying human walking and running. Subjects were tested on a split-belt treadmill and adapted to walking or running on an asymmetrically driven treadmill surface. Despite the acquisition of asymmetrical movement patterns in the respective modes, the emergence of asymmetrical movement patterns in the subsequent trials was evident only within the same modes (walking after learning to walk and running after learning to run) and only partial in the opposite modes (walking after learning to run and running after learning to walk) (thus transferred only limitedly across the modes). Further, the storage of the acquired movement pattern in each mode was maintained independently of the opposite mode. Combined, these results provide indirect evidence for independence in the neural control mechanisms underlying the two locomotive modes.

Concepts: Transport, Running, Walking, Locomotion, Circumstantial evidence, Treadmill, Animal locomotion, Human skills


There are concerns about the safety of texting while walking. Although evidence of negative effects of mobile phone use on gait is scarce, cognitive distraction, altered mechanical demands, and the reduced visual field associated with texting are likely to have an impact. In 26 healthy individuals we examined the effect of mobile phone use on gait. Individuals walked at a comfortable pace in a straight line over a distance of ∼8.5 m while; 1) walking without the use of a phone, 2) reading text on a mobile phone, or 3) typing text on a mobile phone. Gait performance was evaluated using a three-dimensional movement analysis system. In comparison with normal waking, when participants read or wrote text messages they walked with: greater absolute lateral foot position from one stride to the next; slower speed; greater rotation range of motion (ROM) of the head with respect to global space; the head held in a flexed position; more in-phase motion of the thorax and head in all planes, less motion between thorax and head (neck ROM); and more tightly organized coordination in lateral flexion and rotation directions. While writing text, participants walked slower, deviated more from a straight line and used less neck ROM than reading text. Although the arms and head moved with the thorax to reduce relative motion of the phone and facilitate reading and texting, movement of the head in global space increased and this could negatively impact the balance system. Texting, and to a lesser extent reading, modify gait performance. Texting or reading on a mobile phone may pose an additional risk to safety for pedestrians navigating obstacles or crossing the road.

Concepts: Mobile phone, Walking, Locomotion, Text messaging, Pedestrian, SMS, Instant messaging, Equilibrioception


A new gait phase detection system for continuous monitoring based on wireless sensorized insoles is presented. The system can be used in gait analysis mobile applications, and it is designed for real-time demarcation of gait phases. The system employs pressure sensors to assess the force exerted by each foot during walking. A fuzzy rule-based inference algorithm is implemented on a smartphone and used to detect each of the gait phases based on the sensor signals. Additionally, to provide a solution that is insensitive to perturbations caused by non-walking activities, a probabilistic classifier is employed to discriminate walking forward from other low-level activities, such as turning, walking backwards, lateral walking, etc. The combination of these two algorithms constitutes the first approach towards a continuous gait assessment system, by means of the avoidance of non-walking influences.

Concepts: Algorithm, Assessment, Phase, Transducer, Personal digital assistant, Sensor, Sensors, Locomotion