Biomechanical factors influencing successful self-righting in the pleurodire turtle Emydura subglobosa
Self-righting performance is a key ability for most terrestrial animals, and has been used as a metric of fitness, exhaustion and thermal limits in a variety of taxa. However, there is little understanding of the underlying mechanisms that drive variation in self-righting performance. To evaluate the mechanical factors that contribute to success versus failure when animals attempt to self-right, we compared force production and kinematic behavior in the rigid-bodied, pleurodire turtle Emydura subglobosa between successful and unsuccessful self-righting efforts. We found that the moment exerted during efforts to roll the body and the velocity of that roll are the primary drivers behind self-righting success. Specifically, turtles that self-righted successfully produced both larger moments and faster rolls than turtles that failed. In contrast, the angle at which the head was directed to lever the body and the extent of yaw that was incorporated in addition to roll had little impact on the likelihood of success. These results show that specific performance metrics can predict the ability of animals to self-right, providing a framework for biomimetic applications as well as future comparisons to test for differences in self-righting performance across animals from different environments, sexes, populations and species.