Stability is fundamental to the performance of terrestrial locomotion. Running cockroaches met the criteria for static stability over a wide range of speeds, yet several locomotor variables changed in a way that revealed an increase in the importance of dynamic stability as speed increased. Duty factors (the fraction of time that a leg spends on the ground relative to the stride period) decreased to 0.5 and below with an increase in speed. The duration of double support (i.e. when both tripods, or all six legs, were on the ground) decreased significantly with an increase in speed. All legs had similar touch-down phases in the tripod, but the shortest leg, the front one, lifted off before the middle and the rear leg, so that only two legs of the tripod were in contact with the ground at the highest speeds. Per cent stability margin (the shortest distance from the center of gravity to the boundaries of support, normalized to the maximum possible stability margin) decreased with increasing speed from 60% at 10 cms-1 to values less than zero at speeds faster than 50 cms-1, indicating instances of static instability at fast speeds. The center of mass moved rearward or posteriorly with respect to the base of support as speed increased. Moments about the center of mass, as shown by the center of pressure (the equivalent of a single 'effective' leg), were variable, but were balanced by opposing moments over a stride. Thus, hexapods can exploit the advantages of both static and dynamic stability. Static or quasi-static assumptions alone were insufficient to explain straight-ahead, constant-speed locomotion and may hinder discovery of behaviors that are dynamic, where kinetic energy and momentum can act as a bridge from one step to the next.

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