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Liverpool, United Kingdom

Bates K.T.,Institute of Aging and Chronic Disease | Savage R.,Institute of Aging and Chronic Disease | Pataky T.C.,Shinshu University | Morse S.A.,Institute of Aging and Chronic Disease | And 9 more authors.
Journal of the Royal Society Interface | Year: 2013

Footprints are the most direct source of evidence about locomotor biomechanics in extinct vertebrates. One of the principal suppositions underpinning biomechanical inferences is that footprint geometry correlates with dynamic foot pressure, which, in turn, is linked with overall limb motion of the trackmaker. In this study, we perform the first quantitative test of this longstanding assumption, using topological statistical analysis of plantar pressures and experimental and computer-simulated footprints. In computer-simulated footprints, the relative distribution of depth differed from the distribution of both peak and pressure impulse in all simulations. Analysis of footprint samples with common loading inputs and similar depths reveals that only shallow footprints lack significant topological differences between depth and pressure distributions. Topological comparison of plantar pressures and experimental beach footprints demonstrates that geometry is highly dependent on overall print depth; deeper footprints are characterized by greater relative forefoot, and particularly toe, depth than shallowfootprints. The highlighteddifference between 'shallow' and 'deep' footprints clearly emphasizes the need to understand variation in foot mechanics across different degrees of substrate compliance. Overall, our results indicate that extreme caution is required when applying the 'depth equals pressure' paradigm to hominin footprints, and by extension, those of other extant and extinct tetrapods. © 2013 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. Source

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