The metabolic cost of walking on gradients with a waddling gait

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    Using open-flow respirometry and video footage (25frames s-1), the energy expenditure and hindlimb kinematics of barnacle geese, Branta leucopsis, were measured whilst they were exercising on a treadmill at gradients of +7 and -7 deg, and on a level surface. In agreement with previous studies, ascending a gradient incurred metabolic costs higher than those experienced on level ground at comparable speeds. The geese, however, are the first species to show an increased duty factor when ascending a gradient. This increased duty factor was accompanied by a longer stance time, which was probably to enable the additional force required for ascending to be generated. Contrary to previous findings, the geese did not experience decreased metabolic costs when descending a gradient. For a given speed, the geese took relatively shorter and quicker strides when walking downhill. This 'choppy' stride and perhaps a lack of postural plasticity (an inability to adopt a more crouched posture) may negate any energy savings gained from gravity's assistance in moving the centre of mass downhill. Also contrary to previous studies, the incremental increase in metabolic cost with increasing speed was similar for each gradient, indicating that the efficiency of locomotion (mechanical work done/chemical energy consumed) is not constant across all walking speeds. The data here suggest that there are species-specific metabolic responses to locomotion on slopes, as well as the established kinematics differences. It is likely that a suite of factors, such as ecology, posture, gait, leggedness and foot morphology, will subtly affect an organism's ability to negotiate gradients. © 2012. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2579-2585
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
    Issue number15
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


    • Barnacle geese
    • Energetics
    • Kinematics
    • Locomotion
    • Respirometry


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