Plantigrade Locomotion

What is plantigrade locomotion?

Plantigrade locomotion is the way some animals walk with their toes and metatarsals (heels) flat on the ground.

Terrestrial (land) mammals have three ways of walking:

(1) digitigrade (walking on their toes with their heels permanently raised),

(2) unguligrade (walking on the nail of their toes – the hoof – with the heel permanently raised), and 

(3) plantigrade (walking with their toes and heels on the ground).

The leg of a plantigrade mammal includes the bones of the upper leg, called the femur and humerus, and the bones of the lower leg, called the metatarsals and metacarpals. 

Brown Bear

The metatarsals and metacarpals in humans are the arch of the foot and the palm of the hand. Humans have plantigrade locomotion.

Animals with plantigrade locomotion include: 

  • primates (monkeys and apes), 
  • carnivores (raccoons, wolverines, skunks, bears, and red pandas),
  • rodents (mice and rats), 
  • lagomorphs (rabbits), 
  • hedgehogs,
  • hydraxes, and 
  • marsupials (opossums, kangaroos, and wallabies).

The advantages of plantigrade locomotion are stability and weight-bearing ability, because plantigrade feet are large. 

The disadvantage is that the animal is not as fast as some other animals, because their plantigrade feet have more bones and joints, and their legs are usually shorter and heavier than other animals that can run fast. 

Red Panda
Red Panda

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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