The penguin waddling gait pattern has a more consistent step width than step length

Max J. Kurz, Melissa Scott-Pandorf, Chris Arellano, Diane Olsen, Greg Whitaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


Previous research has indicated that the sagittal plane gait dynamics of humans are more stable and less dependent on active neural control, while the frontal plane dynamics are less stable and require greater neural control. The higher neural demands of the frontal plane dynamics are reflected in a more variable step width than step length. Greater variability in the step width occurs because humans modulate their foot placement for each step to ensure stability and prevent falls. Compared to other terrestrial animals, penguins appear to have excessive amount of frontal plane motion in their gait that is characterized as waddling. If excessive frontal plane motion requires additional neural control and is associated with falls, it would seem that evolutionary pressures would have eliminated such locomotive strategies. Here we measured the step length and width variability to determine if waddling results in a less stable gait. Remarkably, the variability of the step width was less than the variability of the step length. These results are directly opposite of what has been reported for humans. Hence, our data indicate that waddling may be an effective strategy for ensuring stability in the frontal plane dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-276
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 21 2008


  • Gait
  • Locomotion
  • Penguin
  • Stability
  • Variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics

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