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Animal galloping and human hopping: an energetics and biomechanics laboratory exercise.

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
AJP Advances in Physiology Education
1522-1229
Publisher
American Physiological Society
Publication Date
Volume
37
Issue
4
Pages
377–383
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1152/advan.00045.2013
PMID: 24292916
Source
Medline
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

This laboratory exercise demonstrates fundamental principles of mammalian locomotion. It provides opportunities to interrogate aspects of locomotion from biomechanics to energetics to body size scaling. It has the added benefit of having results with robust signal to noise so that students will have success even if not "meticulous" in attention to detail. First, using respirometry, students measure the energetic cost of hopping at a "preferred" hop frequency. This is followed by hopping at an imposed frequency half of the preferred. By measuring the O2 uptake and work done with each hop, students calculate mechanical efficiency. Lessons learned from this laboratory include 1) that the metabolic cost per hop at half of the preferred frequency is nearly double the cost at the preferred frequency; 2) that when a person is forced to hop at half of their preferred frequency, the mechanical efficiency is nearly that predicted for muscle but is much higher at the preferred frequency; 3) that the preferred hop frequency is strongly body size dependent; and 4) that the hop frequency of a human is nearly identical to the galloping frequency predicted for a quadruped of our size. Together, these exercises demonstrate that humans store and recover elastic recoil potential energy when hopping but that energetic savings are highly frequency dependent. This stride frequency is dependent on body size such that frequency is likely chosen to maximize this function. Finally, by requiring students to make quantitative solutions using appropriate units and dimensions of the physical variables, these exercises sharpen analytic and quantitative skills.

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