From the camel’s toes to the horse’s hooves, the diversity in foot morphology among mammals is striking. One distinguishing feature is the presence of fat pads, which may play a role in reducing foot pressures, or may be related to habitat specialization. The camelid family provides a useful paradigm to explore this as within this phylogenetically constrained group we see prominent (camels) and greatly reduced (alpacas) fat pads. We found similar scaling of vertical ground reaction force with body mass, but camels had larger foot contact areas, which increased with velocity, unlike alpacas, meaning camels had relatively lower foot pressures. Further, variation between specific regions under the foot was greater in alpacas than camels. Together, these results provide strong evidence for the role of fat pads in reducing relative peak locomotor foot pressures, suggesting that the fat pad role in habitat specialization remains difficult to disentangle.
- animal physiology