Bridging the gap: parkour athletes provide new insights into locomotion energetics of arboreal apes

halsey Lewis, Samuel Coward, Susannah Thorpe

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8 Citations (Scopus)
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The tree canopy is an energetically challenging environment to traverse. Along with compliant vegetation, gaps in the canopy can prove energetically costly if
they force a route-extending detour. Arboreal apes exhibit diverse locomotion strategies, including for gap crossing. Which one they employ in any given scenario may be influenced by the energy costs to do so, which are affected by the details of the immediate environment in combination with their body size. Measuring energetics of arboreal apes is not tractable; thus our knowledge in this area is limited. We devised a novel, custom-made experimental set-up to record the energy expenditure of parkour athletes tree-swaying, jumping and vertical climbing. The latter strategy was vastly more expensive,
indicating that when energy economy is the focus arboreal apes will prioritize routes that limit height changes. Whether tree-swaying or jumping was most economical for the athletes depended upon interactions between tree stiffness, the distance to cross, number of tree-sways required and their own mass. Updated analysis of previous interspecific correlations suggests that whether
the relative costs to vertical climb are size-invariant across primate species is complicated by details of the climbing context.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20160608
Number of pages5
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number11
Early online date1 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2016


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