Date of Award
Most descriptions of elephant locomotion recognize only one gait: the lateral sequence walk. In contrast, several studies on African elephants (Loxodonta africana) have indicated that elephants use at least two other gaits: an amble and a trot. Other animals modify their gaits over the lifespan, but there is no published research on the gaits of elephant calves. The present study examines gait development in African elephant calves born at the Indianapolis Zoo between 2000 and 2015. I conducted frame-by-frame analysis on the gait samples of six calves across two time periods: Early (zero to six months of age) and Late (two to three years). I analyzed 90 gait samples and combined them with archived data on the same calves in order to have sample sizes sufficient for meaningful comparison. Gait diagrams, on which the variables “Duty Factor” and “Phase Lag” are plotted, showed that the calves exhibited two gaits: Lateral sequence walks and walking trots. Comparisons between the two time periods indicated 1) the relative frequency of trotting was similar at both ages, 2) the mean lateral sequence Phase Lag was similar at both ages, 3) a decrease in the Phase Lag variability of lateral sequence gaits, and 4) consistent with the increase in body size, the mean stride duration was longer in the Late period. Since the frequency of trotting was similar in the Early and Late periods, the reduction in trotting typical in adults must occur at a later age.
Knepper, Brandon Austin-Elizondo, "Gait development in African elephant calves" (2019). Undergraduate Honors Thesis Collection. 463.