Kangaroo Tail Acts Like An Extra Leg
(Inside Science TV) -- A mammalian enigma indigenous to Australia, the kangaroo certainly has on odd way of getting from place to place.
But did you know the way kangaroos move has a lot to do with their tails?
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have been studying how kangaroos move for 14 years. Their most recent study looked at how a kangaroo's tail functions while it walks.
"What we discovered was just how much they use it for propulsion," said Rodger Kram, a physiologist at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Scientists studied kangaroos as they walked on special platforms that are able to sense vertical, backward, and forward forces from the legs and tails.
"The tail of the kangaroo acts maybe a bit like an accordion in that it's changing its shape," and "In order to push the animal forward, the tail has to straighten," explained Kram.
Scientists previously thought kangaroos used their tails for balance or support as they walked. But the new research shows they use their tails like an extra leg to propel themselves. In fact, the tail provides more power to help them move than their front and hind legs combined.
Ecologist and zoo keeper at the Denver Zoo, Andrew Haertzen, sees the tail in action every day.
"Every time they walk out, they’re using that tail," said Haertzen.
Researchers hope to use their findings to help understand more about the human gait or better design robotic devices in the future.
Get Inside The Science:
Rodger Kram, University of Colorado, Boulder