|From: Vidal-Gadea et al. Arthropod Structure & Development 2008; 37: 95–108 (adapted)|
While most crabs preferentially walk sideways, they can combine directions and walk diagonally if they so wish. The video above shows a crab that starts walking backwards but gradually adds a horizontal element until it ends up walking sideways only. (Click the link to see the source at a better quality).
And here is an example of a forward walking crab. Again, the original has better quality. If you look carefully you will see that the legs do not all point sideways: the front ones are angled to the front, and the hind ones point almost backwards. In short, they are almost placed and held radially around the body. Are spidrids crustaceoid or are crustacea spidridoid?
|Click to enlarge; copyright Gert van Dijk|
Spidrid legs, although the mere result of a thought exercise, are rather like real crab legs. The image above shows the simplified leg anatomy, say of a sideways-walking crab (or of a spidrid leg). The bottom part shows that the leg can turn forwards and backwards around a vertical hinge close to the body, movements labelled 'promotion' and 'remotion' in technical papers. Let's call that the 'body-leg joint'. The other joints, the 'intraleg joints', in spidrids have horizontal axes allowing the leg to be straightened and flexed (see the top part). There would be muscles for every joint, but I only showed them for one.
If the animal moves in the direction shown here the leg does not need action of the promotor and remotor muscles: the power for movement comes from the intraleg joints. If you rotate the direction of movement 90 degrees, muscle force for this leg has to come from the body-leg joint, meaning the promotor and remotor muscles.
|Click to enlarge; Copyright Gert van Dijk|
So what does all this mean for spidrids? Well, regardless of the direction it walks in, a spidrid has some legs parallel to the direction of movement and some at a right angle to it. The image above shows how that relates to the direction of movement and to the necessary range of motion. The legs parallel to the movement function as the legs in sideways-walking crabs, and depend on intraleg flexion and extension, pulling and pushing the beastie. The legs at largely right angles to the movement depend on promotion and remotion. The leg in between simply make use of both sets of muscles to varying degrees. (Mind you, the word 'promotion' in crabs always refers towards the front end of the animal; in adapting it for spidrid use it must mean 'in the direction of movement', there being no front end.)
The next evolutionary spidrid twist stemmed from the idea that one of these two types of force production might be superior to the other. How would spidrids make use of that edge, while staying radially symmetrical? Before tackling that I realised I had never shown the spidrid's ability to change direction without turning. Solving that posed some interesting Matlab programming problems, but never mind, it works. I added height for fun and slanted the body a bit when the beastie is on a slope to make it look more natural.
Copyright Gert van Dijk
Here it is! Finally, a spidrid that negotiates terrain and make a sharp turn. As you can see, the sharp turn calls for some interesting leg movements. With a shallow turn you would not see the changes well. So this is how real radial animals walk. By the way, should a rich Hollywood director wish to buy the concept for a film, I am available! Anyway, it is now time to adapt this standard spidrid walk to more energy-efficient gaits.
Copyright Gert van Dijk
The one above is built on the assumption that flexion/extension is more efficient than promotion/remotion. So, this species uses its promotion/remotion muscles to swing the legs as far parallel to the direction of movement as they will go. There are probably anatomical limits to this, so some legs still stick out at a right angle to the direction of movement regardless. The turn becomes odd, as some legs have to swing a long way to end up in their new position.
Copyright Gert van Dijk
But the existence of forwards-moving crabs shows that under given circumstances using promotion and remotion as the power house is feasible. The animation above has a spidrid moving its legs with a preference for positions at a right angle to the movement. This movement also calls for large leg swings when the animal changes direction. The legs bump into one another, which can be solved with phase changes, but I left it as it is for now. The anatomy of the animal is the same in all three variants, which may be unwise; I can see the last type having shorter legs to improve leverage, at the cost of stride length.
So there we are! Rampaging spidrids! What else is left for spidrid movement? An obvious additional adaptation would be to include slanting, but I will not provide an animation of that; what you see here was quite complex. Then again, I now have a program resulting in 3D coordinates for any part of a spidrid negotiating a 3D terrain. Perhaps I should go for a photorealistic animation? How about the 'Crown of Thorns' (Coruna spinea) making its way over rocks? Or the 'Blue Jester' (Fossor azureus) walking on the forest floor? The 'Lesser Strandsprab' (Nepa aranea) would do well on a beach, but the 'Hairstar' (Coma confusa) would be difficult to depict, with its hair cover. By the way, all of these appear in paintings I am working on...