South Africa defeats Australia in ‘Battle of the Hoppers’

Posted on November 09, 2020

Australia is famed for its tourist attractions and pop culture such as Bondi Beach, the Sydney Opera House, MasterChef and Kylie Minogue. The country also boasts an abundant and unique native wildlife. The kangaroos, which use their well-developed hindlimbs to hop across the Australian outback, are celebrated for this most unusual mode of locomotion. But South Africa has its own unusual hopper – the springhare.
A new study, published in the Journal of Anatomy, “suggests that the diminutive springhare is a bit better at hopping than its more famous Australian counterparts – at least when it comes to muscle-tendon design and implications for fast and accelerative hopping.” This is according to Dr Ned Snelling, Senior lecturer in the Department of Anatomy and Physiology, at the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Veterinary Science.  He worked in collaboration with scientists from Harvard and Idaho universities as well as at Wits, where they assessed the muscle-tendon design of the hindlimbs of springhares and compared it against 16 species of Australian hoppers. “In the battle of the hoppers, it’s South Africa 1 and Australia 0,” he smiled.
“We have long known that springhares are not hares, but are a type of rodent,” says Dr Snelling. What we have not known, until now, is that springhares can claim some hopping prowess over Australia’s rat-kangaroos, wallabies and kangaroos.”  The reason for studying the muscle-tendons of the hindlimbs is because of their important role in locomotion, particularly hopping, with variation in position, arrangement and architecture facilitating profound variation in the animal’s ability for speed, acceleration and energy costs.  
The study revealed that while the two groups have independently evolved nearly identical hindlimb body plans for hopping locomotion, the springhares are equipped with relatively large tendon structures built into the hindlimbs, providing greater agility, manoeuvrability and acceleration capacities – attributes likely to be advantageous in the predator-dense habitats of southern Africa.
- Author Department of Institutional Advancement

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2024. All rights reserved.

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences