The unique skeleton of frogs’ legs allows some a jump range of almost horizontal to near-vertical, 3D modelling has shown.
Precise control over their long hind legs allows the amphibians to achieve an “amazing” range of jump angles, British scientists say.
The Royal Veterinary College team focused on the red-legged running frog Kassina maculata, an African species that not only jumps, but can also walk and climb.
High-speed cameras revealed the extreme range of jump angles the frog is capable of.
“Some jumps were nearly horizontal, with animals skimming over the ground. In other trials, the frogs rocketed upwards almost vertically,” lead researcher Dr Laura Porro said.
“Their capacity to jump at such a wide range of angles and distances is amazing.”
Sophisticated computer simulations showed the 3D motions of frogs’ legs are “astonishingly” complex, the research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology said.
Forward power was primarily derived from the hip joint, while most of the vertical lift was driven by the ankle.
The knee joint appeared to be crucial in positioning the leg and determining the final take-off angle.
“The ability to jump at a wide range of angles is probably very important to this species as they hunt insects in trees at night and need to be able to move around in a complex, 3D environment,” Dr Porro.
Experiments showed despite being able to move in a number of different ways, the African frog’s jumping performance was similar to that of other species that specialised in leaping.