Overcoming Obstacles: The Effect of Obstacles on Locomotor Performance and Behavior

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Sprinting and jumping ability are key performance measures that have been widely studied in vertebrates. The vast majority of these studies, however, use methodologies that lack an ecological context by failing to consider the complex habitats in which many animals live. Because successfully navigating obstacles within complex habitats is critical for predator escape, running, climbing, and/or jumping performance are each likely to be exposed to selection. In the present study, we quantify how behavioural strategies and locomotor performance change with increasing obstacle height. Obstacle size had a significant influence on behaviour (e.g. obstacle crossing strategy, intermittent locomotion) and performance (e.g. sprint speed, jump distance). Jump frequency and distance increased with obstacle size, suggesting that it likely evolved because it is more efficient (i.e. it reduces the time and distance required to reach a target position). Jump angle, jump velocity, and approach velocity accounted for 58% of the variation in jump distance on the large obstacle, and 33% on the small obstacle. Although these variables have been shown to significantly influence jump distance in static jumps, they do not appear to be influential in running (dynamic) jumps onto a small obstacle. Because selection operates in simple and complex habitats, future studies should consider quantifying additional measures such as jumping or climbing with respect to the evolution of locomotion performance.


World Congress of Herpetology (WCH)


Vancouver, Canada

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