February 05, 2015 / by George Council / In news

Comparative whole-body kinematics of closely related insect species with different body morphology

A compartive study between morphology of insects and the influence on gait. The results could be interesting - from a template/anchor perspective, it would be seeing if a similiar ‘motion primitive’ is being employed despite variation in exact morphology. If so, it might provide insight - if not, it might be suggestive that the template/anchor model is wrong.

Link to Paper
Author : Theunissen, L; Bekemeier, H; Durr, V.
Journal : Journal of Experimental Biology

###Abstract #

Legged locomotion through natural environments is very complex and variable. For example, leg kinematics may differ strongly between species, but even within the same species it is adaptive and context-dependent. Inter-species differences in locomotion are often difficult to interpret, because both morphological and ecological differences among species may be strong and, as a consequence, confound each other’s effects. In order to understand better how body morphology affects legged locomotion, we compare unrestrained whole-body kinematics of three stick insect species with different body proportions, but similar feeding ecology: Carausius morosus, Aretaon asperrimus and Medauroidea extradentata (=Cuniculina impigra). In order to co-vary locomotory context, we introduced a gradually increasing demand for climbing by varying the height of stairs in the setup. The species were similar in many aspects, for example in using distinct classes of steps, with minor differences concerning the spread of corrective short steps. Major differences were related to antenna length, segment lengths of thorax and head, and the ratio of leg length to body length. Whereas all species continuously moved their antennae, only Medauroidea executed high swing movements with its front legs to search for obstacles in the near-range environment. Although all species adjusted their body inclination, the range in which body segments moved differed considerably, with longer thorax segments tending to be moved more. Finally, leg posture, time courses of leg joint angles and intra-leg coordination differed most strongly in long-legged Medauroidea.