Similarly sized bipeds and quadrupeds use nearly the same amount of metabolic energy to run, despite dramatic differences in morphology and running mechanics. It has been shown that the rate of metabolic energy use in quadrupedal runners and bipedal hoppers can be predicted from just body weight and the time available to generate force as indicated by the duration of foot-ground contact. We tested whether this link between running mechanics and energetics also applies to running bipeds. We measured rates of energy consumption and times of foot contact for humans (mean body mass 78.88 kg) and five species of birds (mean body mass range 0.13-40.1 kg). We find that most (70-90%) of the increase in metabolic rate with speed in running bipeds can be explained by changes in the time available to generate force. The rate of force generation also explains differences in metabolic rate over the size range of birds measured. However, for a given rate of force generation, birds use on average 1.7 times more metabolic energy than quadrupeds. The rate of energy consumption for a given rate of force generation for humans is intermediate between that of birds and quadrupeds. These results support the idea that the cost of muscular force production determines the energy cost of running and suggest that bipedal runners use more energy for a given rate of force production because they require a greater volume of muscle to support their body weight.

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