Hind limb scaling of kangaroos and wallabies (superfamily Macropodoidea): implications for hopping performance, safety factor and elastic savings

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The aim of this study was to examine hind limb scaling of the musculoskeletal system in the Macropodoidea, the superfamily containing wallabies and kangaroos, to re-examine the effect of size on the locomotor mechanics and physiology of marsupial hopping. Morphometric musculoskeletal analyses were conducted of 15 species and skeletal specimens of 21 species spanning a size range from 0.8 to 80 kg that included representatives of 12 of the 16 extant genera of macropodoids. We found that unlike other groups, macropodoids are able to match force demands associated with increasing body size primarily through a combination of positive allometry in muscle area and muscle moment arms. Isometric scaling of primary hind limb bones suggests, however, that larger species experience relatively greater bone stresses. Muscle to tendon area ratios of the ankle extensors scale with strong positive allometry, indicating that peak tendon stresses also increase with increasing body size but to a lesser degree than previously reported. Consistent with previous morphological and experimental studies, large macropodoids are therefore better suited for elastic strain energy recovery but operate at lower safety factors, which likely poses an upper limit to body size. Scaling patterns for extant macropodoids suggest that extinct giant kangaroos (approximately 250 kg) were likely limited in locomotor capacity.


McGowan, C PSkinner, JBiewener, A AengResearch Support, Non-U.S. Gov'tEngland2007/12/19 09:00J Anat. 2008 Feb;212(2):153-63. Epub 2007 Dec 13.