Saturday, August 26, 2006

Elephants and Groucho Marx

Have you ever wondered what an elephant and



have in common??

"If an elephant is thundering towards you, you are probably not too concerned with the finer points of biomechanics or whether they are truly running or not," said John Hutchinson, of the Royal Veterinary College.

Dr Hutchinson led a team of researchers who recorded elephants moving at speed. Analysis showed that while at least one foot remains on the ground even when an elephant is moving at top speed, its legs exhibit the bounce and springiness to qualify the species as a runner.

"We call it Groucho running because they have the same gait as Groucho Marx," said Dr Hutchinson. "Like Groucho with his famous silly gait, elephants never quite leave the ground. We are finding they seem to bounce -- they use their legs like pogo sticks without leaving the ground. They use them like springs and that's what running is all about.

"They speed up the way they move their feet but never change the sequence. ... They are really, really bizarre. As elephants speed up they get more and more springy."

Dr Hutchinson added: "Studies of animal locomotion are key to the design of effective walking robots."

Now I might be able to claim that watching

is scientific research.

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