Remarkable similarities in the vertical plane of forward motion exist among diverse legged runners. The effect of differences in posture may be reflected instead in maneuverability occurring in the horizontal plane. The maneuver we selected was turning during rapid running by the cockroach Blaberus discoidalis, a sprawled-postured arthropod. Executing a turn successfully involves at least two requirements. The animal's mean heading (the direction of the mean velocity vector of the center of mass) must be deflected, and the animal's body must rotate to keep the body axis aligned with the heading. We used two-dimensional kinematics to estimate net forces and rotational torques, and a photoelastic technique to estimate single-leg ground-reaction forces during turning. Stride frequencies and duty factors did not differ among legs during turning. The inside legs ended their steps closer to the body than during straight-ahead running, suggesting that they contributed to turning the body. However, the inside legs did not contribute forces or torques to turning the body, but actively pushed against the turn. Legs farther from the center of rotation on the outside of the turn contributed the majority of force and torque impulse which caused the body to turn. The dynamics of turning could not be predicted from kinematic measurements alone. To interpret the single-leg forces observed during turning, we have developed a general model that relates leg force production and leg position to turning performance. The model predicts that all legs could turn the body. Front legs can contribute most effectively to turning by producing forces nearly perpendicular to the heading, whereas middle and hind legs must produce additional force parallel to the heading. The force production necessary to turn required only minor alterations in the force hexapods generate during dynamically stable, straight-ahead locomotion. A consideration of maneuverability in the horizontal plane revealed that a sprawled-postured, hexapodal body design may provide exceptional performance with simplified control.

This content is only available via PDF.