The scaling of ground reaction forces and duty factor in monitor lizards: implications for locomotion in sprawling tetrapods.


Cieri RL(1), Dick TJM(2), Irwin R(3), Rumsey D(4), Clemente CJ(1)(2).
Author information:
(1)School of Science and Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, Queensland 4558, Australia.
(2)School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.
(3)The Australia Zoo, Beerwah, Queensland 4519, Australia.
(4)The Australian Reptile Park, Somersby, New South Wales 2250, Australia.


Geometric scaling predicts a major challenge for legged, terrestrial locomotion. Locomotor support requirements scale identically with body mass (α M1), while force-generation capacity should scale α M2/3 as it depends on muscle cross-sectional area. Mammals compensate with more upright limb postures at larger sizes, but it remains unknown how sprawling tetrapods deal with this challenge. Varanid lizards are an ideal group to address this question because they cover an enormous body size range while maintaining a similar bent-limb posture and body proportions. This study reports the scaling of ground reaction forces and duty factor for varanid lizards ranging from 7 g to 37 kg. Impulses (force×time) (α M0.99-1.34) and peak forces (α M0.73-1.00) scaled higher than expected. Duty factor scaled α M0.04 and was higher for the hindlimb than the forelimb. The proportion of vertical impulse to total impulse increased with body size, and impulses decreased while peak forces increased with speed.