Pitch control and speed limitation during overground deceleration in lemurid primates

Charlotte E. Miller, Henry Pinkard, Laura E. Johnson, Daniel Schmitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An animal's fitness is influenced by the ability to move safely through its environment. Recent models have shown that aspects of body geometry, for example, limb length and center of mass (COM) position, appear to set limits for pitch control in cursorial quadrupeds. Models of pitch control predict that the body shape of these and certain other primates, with short forelimbs and posteriorly positioned COM, should allow them to decelerate rapidly while minimizing the risk of pitching forward. We chose to test these models in two non-cursorial lemurs: Lemur catta, the highly terrestrial ring-tailed lemur, and Eulemur fulvus, the highly arboreal brown lemur. We modeled the effects of changes in limb length and COM position on maximum decelerative potential for both species, as well as collecting data on maximal decelerations across whole strides. In both species, maximum measured decelerations fell below the range of pitch-limited deceleration values predicted by the geometric model, with the ring-tailed lemur approaching its pitch limit more closely. Both lemurs showed decelerative potential equivalent to or higher than horses, the only comparative model currently available. These data reinforce the hypothesis that a relatively simple model of body geometry can predict aspects of maximum performance in animals. In this case, it appears that the body geometry of primates is skewed toward avoiding forward pitch in maximal decelerations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)300-306
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Arboreality
  • Biomechanics
  • Locomotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Developmental Biology


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