Forelimb and hindlimb forces in walking and galloping primates

J. B. Hanna, J. D. Polk, D. Schmitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One trait that distinguishes the walking gaits of most primates from those of most mammalian nonprimates is the distribution of weight between the forelimbs and hindlimbs. Nonprimate mammals generally experience higher vertical peak substrate reaction forces on the forelimb than on the hindlimb. Primates, in contrast, generally experience higher vertical peak substrate reaction forces on the hindlimb than on the forelimb. It is currently unclear whether this unusual pattern of force distribution characterizes other primate gaits as well. The available kinetic data for galloping primates are limited and present an ambiguous picture about peak-force distribution among the limbs. The present study investigates whether the pattern of forelimb-to-hindlimb force distribution seen during walking in primates is also displayed during galloping. Six species of primates were video-recorded during walking and galloping across a runway or horizontal pole instrumented with a force-plate. The results show that while the force differences between forelimb and hindlimb are not significantly different from zero during galloping, the pattern of force distribution is generally the same during walking and galloping for most primate species. These patterns and statistical results are similar to data collected during walking on the ground. The pattern of limb differentiation exhibited by primates during walking and galloping stands in contrast to the pattern seen in most nonprimate mammals, in which forelimb forces are significantly higher. The data reported here and by Demes et al. ([1994] J. Hum. Evol. 26:353-374) suggest that a relative reduction of forelimb vertical peak forces is part of an overall difference in locomotor mechanics between most primates and most nonprimate mammals during both walking and galloping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-535
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2006


  • Galloping
  • Kinetics
  • Primate locomotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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