Many animals use thin perches, such as the branches of trees, as locomotory substrates. In this paper, I have reviewed the literature concerned with measurements of locomotory forces made by birds and primates on thin and flexible substrates. Through a knowledge of the locomotory forces exerted by animals when using different substrates, the mechanical cost of their use can be established. We are just beginning to learn about the magnitude and patterns of force production in various branch-using vertebrates, primarily as a result of the development of instrumented perches. Instrumented perches have been designed to measure the forces produced by birds and primates when leaping from rigid and flexible horizontal and flexible vertical perches, and also from instrumented handgrips during brachiation. The development of these techniques for birds and primates allows us to compare the way in which they use perches as locomotory substrates. In both birds and primates, the magnitudes of landing forces are smaller than those during take-off. Two explanations have been proposed; the difference is either a consequence of perch compliance or it is a strategic decision to be cautious of ‘new’ perches. Leaps from flexible perches may be somewhat inefficient because considerable energy is dissipated in bending the perch, and this energy may remain unrecovered when the animal leaves contact with the perch.

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