Journal of human evolution vol:50 issue:5 pages:552-567
This study gives a qualitative and quantitative description of the different terrestrial locomotor modes of a group of white-handed gibbons(Hylobates lar) from the Wild Animal Park Planckendael, Belgium. The gibbons were filmed during voluntary locomotion on a grassy and smooth substrate and on a pole. These video images allowed us to define seven different gait types, based on spatial and temporal footfall patterns. Consequent digitization of the video images (n = 254) yielded duty factors, stride lengths, and stride frequencies of the fore- and hind limbs during locomotion at a wide range of speeds. These spatiotemporal gait characteristics were regressed against velocity, and the regression lines of the different gait types were compared. In addition, gibbon bipedalism was compared with bonobo (Pan paniscus) and human bipedalism. Gibbons appear to be very versatile animals, using a bipedal, tripedal, or quadrupedal gait during terrestrial travel with an overlapping speed range. The spatiotemporal characteristics of these gaits are largely similar, although they have clearly distinct footfall patterns. Bipedal walking on the pole is slightly different from terrestrial bipedalism, but differences between substrate types (grass vs. catwalk) are subtle. During bipedalism, gibbons increase both stride length and frequency to increase speed, just as humans and bonobos do, but at a given speed, gibbons take relatively larger strides at lower rates. Bipedal walking in gibbons also appears to be relatively fast-gibbons could keep on walking at speeds where humans have to start running. Apparently, adaptations for arboreal locomotion have not constrained the terrestrial locomotor abilities of gibbons. This may indicate that the step from an arboreal ancestral ape to a terrestrial, upright bipedal hominin might not be difficult and that structural specializations are not a prerequisite for adopting a (non-habitual) bipedal gait. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.