The kangaroo's tail propels and powers pentapedal locomotion

Shawn M. O'Connor, Terence J. Dawson, Rodger Kram, J. Maxwell Donelan

Abstract

When moving slowly, kangaroos plant their tail on the ground in sequence with their front and hind legs. To determine the tail's role in this ‘pentapedal’ gait, we measured the forces the tail exerts on the ground and calculated the mechanical power it generates. We found that the tail is responsible for as much propulsive force as the front and hind legs combined. It also generates almost exclusively positive mechanical power, performing as much mass-specific mechanical work as does a human leg during walking at the same speed. Kangaroos use their muscular tail to support, propel and power their pentapedal gait just like a leg.

  • Received May 13, 2014.
  • Accepted June 10, 2014.
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