Do fast moving elephants run or walk?

275x250.jpgYou have probably never questioned it, but scientists have spent years working out if elephants run, or just walk fast.

Using high speed cameras and a touch sensitive track, researchers have observed elephants moving at speeds of up to 11mph.

What they found was that speeding elephant do both - they run with their front legs but walk quickly with their back legs.

Running movements continually recycle potential energy stored in tendons and muscles into bouncing kinetic energy, while walking converts potential energy at the start of a stride into kinetic energy as they step forward.

And we thought running with the front legs and walking with the rear would just mean the elephant stretched like in a cartoon.
A spokesperson for the research said: "By tracking how elephants cycle potential energy into kinetic energy over the course of a stride, the team could distinguish whether the high-speed animals were running or walking.

"Plotting the potential and kinetic energy of the elephants' centres of mass over the course of many strides at different speeds, the team could see that the elephants were walking like an inverted pendulum at low speeds. But as they moved faster, the kinetic and potential energy plots shifted to look like those of runners.

"However, when the team analysed the movements of the elephant's centre of mass, they could see that it almost maintained a constant level as the animal shifted its weight from one side to the other, but bobbed down and up like a runner's during the second half of the stride.

"So the elephants were running by one measure but not by another and it seems that the forelimbs trot while the hind limbs walk at higher speeds."

University of Louvain            
Journal of Experimental Biology 
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