London: It is well-known that gibbons are capable of leaping prodigious distances between trees, crossing gaps of more than 10m at a time. Now scientists have discovered just how they do it.
Along with colleagues at the University of Liverpool and University of Antwerp, Belgium, Anthony Channon studied the biomechanics of leaping among a group of captive, untrained gibbons held at the Planckendael Wild Animal Park in Belgium.
Together, the researcher collected data during 24 spontaneous, unprovoked leaps made by an adult female white-cheeked gibbon.
Without interfering with the ape, the researchers used a forceplate to record the forces exerted by the gibbon`s feet as it leapt, and two high speed cameras to record details of its body position, and the angles of its legs, body and arms.
This revealed that the gibbon uses four distinct modes of leaping, categorised as the orthograde single footed take-off, the orthograde two footed take-off, the orthograde squat jump and the pronograde single footed take off.
"The orthograde single and two-footed leaps are likely useful during feeding and crossing short distances between branches of the same tree," the BBC quoted Channon as saying.
"Gibbons have been shown to jump small distances within one tree when feeding or playing," Channon added.
The research has been published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.