Terrestrial locomotion

An example of terrestrial locomotion. A horse – an erect-stanced unguligrade quadruped – with a galloping gait. A 2006 animation of 1887 photos by Eadweard Muybridge
Hip joints and hindlimb postures.
The velvet worm (Onychophora)
A jumping kangaroo.
Helix pomatia crawling over razor blades. Terrestrial gastropods crawl on a layer of mucus. This adhesive locomotion allows them to crawl over sharp objects.
The pangolin Manis temminckii in defensive position.

Terrestrial locomotion has evolved as animals adapted from aquatic to terrestrial environments.

- Terrestrial locomotion

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Not to be confused with Gait.

Marathon runners at Carlsbad Marathon, USA, 2013
A scene depicting long-distance runners, originally found on a Panathenaic amphora from Ancient Greece, circa 333 BCE
Ancient Roman bronze sculptures of runners from the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, now in the Naples National Archaeological Museum
Eadweard Muybridge photo sequence
Person with a bad running form. Heel striking and leaning forward are some of the most common mistakes and cause of injuries among beginners.
Chafing of skin following a marathon run
Maximum human speed [km/h] and pace [min/km] per distance
A man running with a baton during a relay race.
International-level women athletes competing in 100 m sprint race at ISTAF Berlin, 2006

Running is a method of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot.


Computer simulation of a human walk cycle. In this model the head keeps the same level at all times, whereas the hip follows a sine curve.
Racewalkers at the World Cup Trials in 1987
Nordic walkers
Free heels are a defining characteristic of ski touring
Human Walking Cycle
Hiking with full packs.
Gauchetière Street, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Two king penguins and one gentoo penguin walking on a beach on South Georgia, British overseas territory
The walk, a four-beat gait
An Asian elephant walking

Walking (also known as ambulation) is one of the main gaits of terrestrial locomotion among legged animals.


An ostrich, the fastest extant biped at 70 km/h
A Man Running - Eadweard Muybridge
Profile view of the human spine
A group of children racing
The human respiratory system, encased by the rib cage
ASIMO - a bipedal robot

Bipedalism is a form of terrestrial locomotion where an organism moves by means of its two rear limbs or legs.


The zebra is a quadruped.

Quadrupedalism is a form of terrestrial locomotion where a tetrapod (as well as mantises, who primarily walk in this way) animal uses all four limbs (legs) to bear weight, walk, and run.


Mammals (from Latin mamma, 'breast') are a group of vertebrates constituting the class Mammalia, characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in females produce milk for feeding (nursing) their young, a neocortex (a region of the brain), fur or hair, and three middle ear bones.

The original synapsid skull structure contains one temporal opening behind the orbitals, in a fairly low position on the skull (lower right in this image). This opening might have assisted in containing the jaw muscles of these organisms which could have increased their biting strength.
Restoration of Juramaia sinensis, the oldest known Eutherian (160 M.Y.A.)
Fossil of Thrinaxodon at the National Museum of Natural History
Raccoon lungs being inflated manually
Mammal skin: 1 — hair, 2 — epidermis, 3 — sebaceous gland, 4 — Arrector pili muscle, 5 — dermis, 6 — hair follicle, 7 — sweat gland, 8 (not labeled, the bottom layer) — hypodermis, showing round adipocytes
Bovine kidney
A diagram of ultrasonic signals emitted by a bat, and the echo from a nearby object
Porcupines use their spines for defense.
A leopard's disruptively colored coat provides camouflage for this ambush predator.
Goat kids stay with their mother until they are weaned.
Matschie's tree-kangaroo with young in pouch
Running gait. Photographs by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887.
Gibbons are very good brachiators because their elongated limbs enable them to easily swing and grasp on to branches.
Vervet monkeys use at least four distinct alarm calls for different predators.
A bonobo fishing for termites with a stick
Female elephants live in stable groups, along with their offspring.
Red kangaroos "boxing" for dominance
Upper Paleolithic cave painting of a variety of large mammals, Lascaux, c. 17,300 years old
Cattle have been kept for milk for thousands of years.
Biodiversity of large mammal species per continent before and after humans arrived there
Sexual dimorphism in aurochs, the extinct wild ancestor of cattle.

The basic body type is quadruped, and most mammals use their four extremities for terrestrial locomotion; but in some, the extremities are adapted for life at sea, in the air, in trees, underground, or on two legs.

Horse gait

An 1878 chronophotography sequence by Eadweard Muybridge of a horse in motion
The walk, a four-beat gait
The trot, a two-beat gait involving diagonal pairs of legs. The two legs with white stockings are off the ground.
The Fairman Rogers Four-in-Hand (1879–80) by Thomas Eakins, was the first painting to demonstrate precisely how horses move based on systematic photographic analysis. Eakins based these on Eadweard Muybridge's 1878 photographs of the trotter "Abe Edgington".
An Andalusian performing the canter. The left hind and right fore will land at the same moment, creating three beats in the stride. This horse is on the left lead, as the left rear and right fore are moving together, with the left hind leading the right hind. As the left fore lands, it will be in front of the right fore.
The suspension phase, seen in the canter and the gallop
In motion
The 1821 Derby at Epsom, painting by Théodore Géricault
Stills of the Muybridge sequence; images 7 and 8 show the suspension phase, the second from the last image show the broken strike sequence of the inside hind and outside fore feet
Icelandic horse at the tölt
Tennessee Walking Horse at the running walk
Saddlebred performing the rack

Horses can use various gaits (patterns of leg movement) during locomotion across solid ground, either naturally or as a result of specialized training by humans.

Arthropod leg

Form of jointed appendage of arthropods, usually used for walking.

Diagram of biramous leg of a trilobite; Agnostus spp.
Crustacean appendages
Micrograph of housefly leg
Diagram of a spider leg and pedipalp – the pedipalp has one fewer segment
The leg of a squat lobster, showing the segments; the ischium and merus are fused in many decapods
Seven-segmented legs of Scutigera coleoptrata
Zabalius aridus showing full leg anatomy, including plantulae under each tarsomere
Diagram of a typical insect leg
Acanthacris ruficornis, legs saltatorial, femora with bipennate muscle attachments, spines on tibiae painfully effective in a defensive kick
Robber fly (Asilidae), showing tarsomeres and pretarsi with ungues, pulvilli and empodia
Webspinner, Embia major, front leg showing enlarged tarsomere, which contains the silk-spinning organs
Bruchine with powerful femora used for escape from hard-shelled seed
Expression of Hox genes in the body segments of different groups of arthropod, as traced by evolutionary developmental biology. The Hox genes 7, 8, and 9 correspond in these groups but are shifted (by heterochrony) by up to three segments. Segments with maxillopeds have Hox gene 7. Fossil trilobites probably had three body regions, each with a unique combination of Hox genes.

Cursorial legs are modified for running. For example: lots of cockroaches have very sensitive cursorial legs

Amphibious fish

Amphibious fish are fish that are able to leave water for extended periods of time.

Mudskippers (Periophthalmus gracilis shown) are among the most land adapted of fish (excepting, from a cladistic perspective, tetrapods), and are able to spend days moving about out of water.

These fish use a range of terrestrial locomotory modes, such as lateral undulation, tripod-like walking (using paired fins and tail), and jumping.


Area, habitat, or geological period, extinct and/or extant.

The African bush elephant, Earth's largest extant land animal
Large terrestrial mammals compared in size to one of the largest sauropod dinosaurs, Patagotitan
Baleen whale comparative sizes
Correlations between times of first appearance of humans and unique megafaunal extinction pulses on different land masses
Cyclical pattern of global climate change over the last 450,000 years (based on Antarctic temperatures and global ice volume), showing that there were no unique climatic events that would account for any of the megafaunal extinction pulses
marine oxygen isotopes
atmospheric carbon dioxide levels
Some Paleozoic sea scorpions (Eurypterus shown) were larger than a human.
Dunkleosteus was a {{convert|10|m|ft|0|abbr=on}} long toothless armored predatory Devonian placoderm fish.
Sail-backed pelycosaur Dimetrodon and temnospondyl Eryops from North America's Permian.
Leedsichthys, a mid-Jurassic filter feeder fish, may have reached sizes of {{convert|7|-|16.5|m|ft|abbr=on}}.
Macronarian sauropods; from left, Camarasaurus, Brachiosaurus, Giraffatitan, Euhelopus.
thumb|left|The Spinosaurus (left) was the largest terrestrial predator to ever live, at 12.6 to 18 meters (41 to 59 ft).
Tyrannosaurus was a {{convert|12.3|m|ft|abbr=on}} long theropod dinosaur, an apex predator of west North America.
Asian indricothere rhino Paraceratherium was among the largest land mammals,<ref name = "Tsubamoto2012">{{cite journal | doi = 10.4202/app.2011.0067 | title=Estimating body mass from the astragalus in mammals | journal=Acta Palaeontologica Polonica | date=2012 | pages= 259–265| first=T. | last=Tsubamoto| s2cid=54686160 }}</ref> about twice a bush elephant's mass.
The Late Miocene teratorn Argentavis of South America had a {{convert|7|m|ft|0|abbr=on}} wingspan.
Reconstructed jaws of C. megalodon (Baltimore).
Deinotherium had downward-curving tusks and ranged widely over Afro-Eurasia.
Titanis walleri, the only terror bird known to have invaded North America, was {{convert|2.5|m|ft|abbr=on}} tall.
Hippo-sized Diprotodon of Australia, the largest marsupial of all time, became extinct 40,000 years ago.
Megalania, a giant carnivorous goanna of Australia, might have grown to 7 metres long.
Glyptodon, from South America's Pleistocene, was an auto-sized cingulate, a relative of armadillos.
Macrauchenia, South America's last and largest litoptern, may have had a short saiga-like trunk or moose-like nostrils.<ref name=EoDP>{{cite book |editor=Palmer, D.|year=1999 |title= The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals|publisher= Marshall Editions|location=London|page= 248|isbn= 978-1-84028-152-1}}</ref><ref>{{Cite journal|last1=Moyano|first1=S.R.|last2=Giannini|first2=N.P.|title=Cranial characters associated with the proboscis postnatal-development in Tapirus (Perissodactyla: Tapiridae) and comparisons with other extant and fossil hoofed mammals|journal= Zoologischer Anzeiger|date=2018-10-10|issn=0044-5231|doi=10.1016/j.jcz.2018.08.005|volume=277|issue=7554|pages=143–147|s2cid=92143497}}</ref>
American lions exceeded extant lions in size and ranged over much of N. America until 11,000 BP.
Woolly mammoths vanished after humans invaded their habitat in Eurasia and N. America.
The subfossil lemur Archaeoindris was the largest lemur ever to exist, close in size to a gorilla.
Haast's eagle, the largest eagle known, attacking moa (a genus which included the tallest bird known).
The eastern gorilla is the largest and one of the more endangered primates on the planet.
The most common tiger subspecies, Bengal tigers are endangered by poaching and habitat destruction.
Polar bears, among the largest bears (consistent with Bergmann's rule), are vulnerable to global warming.
The critically endangered black rhinoceros, up to {{convert|3.75|m|ft}} long, is threatened by poaching.
Wild Bactrian camels are critically endangered. Their ancestors originated in North America.
Unlike woolly rhinos and mammoths, muskoxen narrowly survived the Quaternary extinctions.
Hippopotamuses, the heaviest and most aquatic even-toed ungulates, are whales' closest living relatives.
The sperm whale, the largest toothed whale and toothed predator, has the biggest brain.
The orca, the largest dolphin and pack predator, is highly intelligent and lives in complex societies.
The cassowary, the heaviest non-African bird, can run at 50 km/h through dense rainforest.
The saltwater crocodile is the largest living reptile and a dangerous predator of humans.
The Komodo dragon, an insular giant and the largest lizard, has serrated teeth and a venomous bite.
The green anaconda, an aquatic constrictor, is the heaviest snake, weighing up to {{convert|97.5|kg|lb|abbr=on}} or more.
The deep-diving ocean sunfish is the largest bony fish, but its skeleton is mostly cartilaginous.
The Nile perch, one of the largest freshwater fish, is also a damaging invasive species.{{refn|Perspective makes the fish appear larger relative to the man standing behind it (another example of a megafaunal species) than it actually is.|group = note}}
The great white, the largest macropredatory fish, is more endangered than the tiger.<ref>{{cite news|title=Great white shark is more endangered than tiger, claims scientist|author=Sample, Ian|url=https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/feb/19/great-white-shark-endangered-tiger|newspaper=The Guardian|date=19 February 2010|access-date=14 August 2013}}</ref>
The manta, a filter feeder, is the largest ray at up to 7.6 m across, yet can breach clear of the water.
Examination of a 9 m giant squid, an abyssal giant and the second largest cephalopod.

Fewer biomechanical constraints on increases in body size may be associated with suspension in water as opposed to standing against the force of gravity, and with swimming movements as opposed to terrestrial locomotion.

Blyth's reticulated snake

Species of snake in the subfamily Natricinae of the family Colubridae of the superfamily Colubroidea.

All adult Eurasian blue tits share the same coloration, unmistakably identifying the morphospecies.

B. reticulata is terrestrial.