The goal of our study was to explore the mechanical power requirements associated with jumping in yellow-footed rock wallabies and to determine how these requirements are achieved relative to steady-speed hopping mechanics. Whole body power output and limb mechanics were measured in yellow-footed rock wallabies during steady-speed hopping and moving jumps up to a landing ledge 1.0 m high (approximately 3 times the animals' hip height). High-speed video recordings and ground reaction force measurements from a runway-mounted force platform were used to calculate whole body power output and to construct a limb stiffness model to determine whole limb mechanics. The combined mass of the hind limb extensor muscles was used to estimate muscle mass-specific power output. Previous work suggested that a musculoskeletal design that favors elastic energy recovery, like that found in tammar wallabies and kangaroos, may impose constraints on mechanical power generation. Yet rock wallabies regularly make large jumps while maneuvering through their environment. As jumping often requires high power, we hypothesized that yellow-footed rock wallabies would be able to generate substantial amounts of mechanical power. This was confirmed, as we found net extensor muscle power outputs averaged 155 W kg(-1) during steady hopping and 495 W kg(-1) during jumping. The highest net power measured reached nearly 640 W kg(-1). As these values exceed the maximum power-producing capability of vertebrate skeletal muscle, we suggest that back, trunk and tail musculature likely play a substantial role in contributing power during jumping. Inclusion of this musculature yields a maximum power output estimate of 452 W kg(-1) muscle. Similar to human high-jumpers, rock wallabies use a moderate approach speed and relatively shallow leg angle of attack (45-55 degrees) during jumps. Additionally, initial leg stiffness increases nearly twofold from steady hopping to jumping, facilitating the transfer of horizontal kinetic energy into vertical kinetic energy. Time of contact is maintained during jumping by a substantial extension of the leg, which keeps the foot in contact with the ground.
McGowan, C PBaudinette, R VUsherwood, J RBiewener, A AengComparative StudyResearch Support, Non-U.S. Gov'tEngland2005/07/08 09:00J Exp Biol. 2005 Jul;208(Pt 14):2741-51.