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Locomotion: Definition & Types

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  • 0:01 Locomotion
  • 0:25 Flying
  • 1:42 Swimming
  • 2:35 Land Locomotion
  • 4:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Animals are able to move themselves in more than one way for a variety of different purposes. This lesson explores three types of locomotion: flying, swimming, and land locomotion.

Locomotion

How do you move when you need to move? Do you walk to work? Do you run when exercising? Do you swim in the water or just let yourself sink? Most animals rely on locomotion, which is movement, or the ability to move, from place to place.

This lesson will cover three types of locomotion animals take advantage of for everything from finding food, to finding a mate, to moving away from a predator. We'll explore flying, swimming, and land locomotion.

Flying

Active flight, the motion of an animal through the air, is only enjoyed by select groups of animals: insects, birds, and one mammal, the bat. Active flight should not be confused with passive flight. A sugar glider may seem like it's flying from a tree, but it's actually, like its name suggests, gliding down to earth.

Animals that have the gift of flight have special adaptations that allow them to not only overpower the force of gravity, but also consume as little energy as possible staying aloft. This latter point is established by things like the reduction of body mass. For example, birds have bones with lots of air-filled regions that lessen the bird's overall mass. Birds lack teeth, which further lessens their mass. They also lack a urinary bladder, which means they do not have to fly around carrying a pretty heavy 'water balloon,' if you will.

The shape of their wings and their body allows these animals to overcome gravity and consume as little energy as possible during flight. Namely, they have special shapes to their wings, which allow them to alter the air currents around them to stay up in the air, and they have torpedo-like, or spindle-like, shapes to their bodies that reduce drag as they fly through the air.

Swimming

The adaptation of a fusiform, or spindle, shape is also evident in many aquatic animals. This is because water exerts an even larger drag on an animal's body as it swims through it, and a torpedo-like shape allows for the animal's ability to cut through the water with as little energy expenditure as possible.

This is one reason why submarines are shaped the way they are - almost like many marine animals in the shape of its body. Can you imagine a submarine having the shape of a rectangle?

But swimming doesn't occur in the same way for every animal. You and I, we can swim breaststroke, or butterfly, or some other way. Different animals also have different methods of swimming. For example, sharks swim by moving their body and tail side to side. Whales move their body and tail up and down to propel themselves forward. And animals like squids can propel themselves by squirting out jets of water.

Land Locomotion

Animals moving about on land also move around in very different ways. Kangaroos hop. Humans walk or run. Earthworms crawl.

In general, those animals limited to locomotion on land are less concerned about a streamlined shape, like those of aquatic animals or animals capable of flight. That's because when moving about at low or moderate speeds on land, air poses relatively little resistance to locomotion.

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