Arboreal locomotion

Arboreal locomotion is the locomotion of animals in trees. In habitats in which trees are present, animals have evolved to move in them. Some animals may scale trees only occasionally, but others are exclusively arboreal. The habitats pose numerous mechanical challenges to animals moving through them and lead to a variety of anatomical, behavioral and ecological consequences as well as variations throughout different species. Furthermore, many of these same principles may be applied to climbing without trees, such as on rock piles or mountains.

The earliest known tetrapod with specializations that adapted it for climbing trees was Suminia, a synapsid of the late Permian, about 260 million years ago.

Some invertebrate animals are exclusively arboreal in habitat, such as the tree snail.

Arboreal habitats pose numerous mechanical challenges to animals moving in them, which have been solved in diverse ways. These challenges include moving on narrow branches, moving up and down inclines, balancing, crossing gaps, and dealing with obstructions.

Moving along a narrow surface poses special difficulties to animals. During locomotion on the ground, the location of the center of mass may swing from side to side, but during arboreal locomotion, this would result in the center of mass moving beyond the edge of the branch, resulting in a tendency to topple over. Additionally, foot placement is constrained by the need to make contact with the narrow branch. This narrowness severely restricts the range of movements and postures an animal can use to move.

Branches are frequently oriented at an angle to gravity in arboreal habitats, including being vertical, which poses special problems. As an animal moves up an inclined branch, they must fight the force of gravity to raise their body, making movement more difficult. Conversely, as the animal descends, it must also fight gravity to control its descent and prevent falling. Descent can be particularly problematic for many animals, and highly arboreal species often have specialized methods for controlling their descent.

This page was last edited on 13 December 2017, at 07:34.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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