A new study has found that Ostriches-the fastest bird on the land-use tendons to store and return twice as much elastic energy per step than humans.
This reduces the work required by their muscles providing a huge advantage in the ”spring of their step”.
Using state of the art biomechanics equipment sports scientist Jonas Rubenson and colleagues compared the running techniques of two humans and five ostriches to understand why the cumbersome looking creature is so much more adept.
The team placed reflective markers on their limbs to capture their motion and used computer-modelling techniques to analyse them.
The ostriches were trained to run along a fifty-metre track and both species were then studied in three dimensions, allowing front on, sideways and bird’s eye views.
“We chose to study ostriches because ostriches and humans are of a similar mass and are two-legged, or bipedal. Animals such as the ostrich are specialised to run both fast and remarkably economically,” the Telegraph quoted Rubenson as saying.
“By comparing ostriches to their less economical two legged counterpart – humans – our team found the difference lies in the elasticity of their joints.
“Ostriches use tendons to store and return twice as much elastic energy per step than us, reducing the work required by their muscles,” he added.
While ostriches and humans burn a similar amount of calories in walking when it comes to running, ostriches require almost exactly 50 per cent less.
Rubenson, of the University of Western Australia (UWA), compared their movement to that of a bouncing ball or pogo-stick.
He said: “It”s all in the spring of their step!”
“The UWA lab adopts experimental and modelling approaches in both humans and animal systems, and applies this knowledge to improving human health and performance.
“My current projects involve measuring human muscle strain, force and energy use during movement in both normal and gait impaired individuals. Future work aims at applying this information in technologies for enhancing human gait, such as improving locomotor economy and reducing muscle injuries.”
The findings were published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.