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.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3575726.
- Received July 18, 2016.
- Accepted October 31, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.