Performance and Three-Dimensional Kinematics of Bipedal Lizards During Obstacle Negotiation

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Journal of Experimental Biology






Bipedal running is common among lizard species, but although the kinematics and performance of this gait have been well characterized, the advantages in biologically relevant situations are still unclear. Obstacle negotiation is a task that is ecologically relevant to many animals while moving at high speeds, such as during bipedal running, yet little is known about how obstacles impact locomotion and performance. We examined the effects of obstacle negotiation on the kinematics and performance of lizards during bipedal locomotion. We quantified three-dimensional kinematics from high-speed video (500 Hz) of six-lined racerunners (Aspidoscelis sexlineata) running on a 3 m racetrack both with and without an obstacle spanning the width of the track. The lizards did not alter their kinematics prior to contacting the obstacle. Although contact with the obstacle caused changes to the hindlimb kinematics, mean forward speed did not differ between treatments. The deviation of the vertical position of the body center of mass did not differ between treatments, suggesting that in the absence of a cost to overall performance, lizards forgo maintaining normal kinematics while negotiating obstacles in favor of a steady body center of mass height to avoid destabilizing locomotion.