Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Have You Ever Seen An Elephant ... Run?

Date:
August 20, 2006
Source:
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Summary:
If an elephant is thundering towards you at 15mph you are probably not too concerned with the finer points of biomechanics or the thorny question about whether they are truly running or not. But for researchers, understanding these points and getting a clearer picture of how elephants move their seven tonnes of bulk at speed offers the potential to improve animal welfare, inform human biomechanics and even help in the design of large robots.

A young elephant steps out at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park while cameras record the movement of the disc shaped markers on its legs and back.
Credit: Image John Hutchinson, The Royal Veterinary College

If an elephant is thundering towards you at 15mph you are probably not too concerned with the finer points of biomechanics or the thorny question about whether they are truly running or not. But for researchers, understanding these points and getting a clearer picture of how elephants move their seven tonnes of bulk at speed offers the potential to improve animal welfare, inform human biomechanics and even help in the design of large robots.

Dr John Hutchinson, a research leader at the UK’s Royal Veterinary College (RVC), has already shown that, contrary to previous studies and most popular opinion, elephants moving at speed appear to be running. Now with funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) his team is using Hollywood-style motion capture cameras combined with MRI and CT scans of elephants to build 3D computer models of elephant locomotion to show the forces and stresses at work on muscles, tendons and bones.

The research team has been working with elephants at UK wildlife and safari parks and will shortly travel to Africa and Thailand to study wild animals. Fifteen temporary markers are placed on the elephants’ joints and the animals then move past a motion capture camera, recording at 240 frames per second, at varying speeds. Back in the lab the researchers can then use the footage to reconstruct the rotations of the elephants’ joints on a computer, creating a 3D stick model of the animal.

The computer models are being used to establish how limb structure relates to elephant locomotion and to determine finally if elephants really can run – or in scientific terms, at some point do they have all their feet off the ground at the same time? Dr Hutchinson said: “We are particularly interested how elephants coordinate their limbs and working out which joints contribute most to the length and frequency of their steps. In examining whether elephants truly run or not we need to understand what limits their top speed. Is it the tendons and muscles having to withstand the impact of 7 tonnes of elephant or is it something else?”

This is not a trivial question as Dr Hutchinson explained: “A better understanding of elephant biomechanics offers the possibility for real animal welfare improvements. By developing ways to spot slight changes in gait and joint movements in captive elephants we can catch the early onset of osteomyelitis and arthritis. If these conditions are not treated early they can result in an elephant being put down.”

The research also informs other biomechanical studies as the elephant leg has surprising similarities to our own. Humans have the same structure of a straight leg with a long thigh and short foot. Studies of animal locomotion are also key to the design of effective walking robots. By understanding how evolution achieved the joint structure and limb coordination of an animal as large as an elephant we will be better able to construct our own man-made walking robots.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. "Have You Ever Seen An Elephant ... Run?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 August 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060818010053.htm>.
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. (2006, August 20). Have You Ever Seen An Elephant ... Run?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060818010053.htm
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. "Have You Ever Seen An Elephant ... Run?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060818010053.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — You're more likely to gain weight while watching action flicks than you are watching other types of programming, says a new study published in JAMA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Get A Mortgage, Receive A Cat — Only In Russia

Get A Mortgage, Receive A Cat — Only In Russia

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The incentive is in keeping with a Russian superstition that it's good luck for a cat to be the first to cross the threshold of a new home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) — Tourists in Palau clamour to dive with sharks thanks to a pioneering conservation initiative -- as the island nation plans to completely ban commercial fishing in its vast ocean territory. 01:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins