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Robust jumping performance and elastic energy recovery from compliant perches in tree frogs.

ABSTRACT

Arboreal animals often move on compliant branches, which may deform substantially under loads, absorbing energy. Energy stored in a compliant substrate may be returned to the animal or it may be lost. In all cases studied so far, animals jumping from a static start lose all of the energy imparted to compliant substrates and performance is reduced. Cuban tree frogs (Osteopilus septentrionalis) are particularly capable arboreal jumpers, and we hypothesized that these animals would be able to recover energy from perches of varying compliance. In spite of large deflections of the perches and consequent substantial energy absorption, frogs were able to regain some of the energy lost to the perch during the recoil. Takeoff velocity was robust to changes in compliance, but was lower than when jumping from flat surfaces. This highlights the ability of animals to minimize energy loss and maintain dependable performance on challenging substrates via behavioral changes.