Elephants Do Run!

Until just now, no one actually knew whether elephants run or not! John Hutchinson, then a graduate student, decided to find out using the same modern motion capture technology used in creating video games:

The researchers used modern motion capture, similar to those used in "Lord of the Rings" and in video games, along with MRI and CT scans to visualize the positions of the joints of the fore and hind limbs, Hutchinson explained. Their six special cameras took 240 pictures per second and could capture far more detail than the naked eye or conventional video could.

They soon found that although elephants don't lift all four feet at once, a previous definition of running, they showed signs of using their legs like pogo sticks, compressing and rebounding with each step. A pogo stick is a pole with a spring at the bottom and two footrests on which a person stands and moves by jumping.

"In the last 40 years, locomotion biomechanics has realized that this is the definitive feature of running—runners are bouncy-legged, whereas walkers are stiff-legged," Hutchinson told LiveScience.


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