When you’re interested in documenting forelimb locomotion to help you infer what was going on extinct reptiles and mammals, it pays not to be picky. So when the opportunity came to analyze the gaits of two ferrets materialized, how could the BFF lab say no? Ferrets have a unique body morphology and certainly have a much more upright forelimb than the rats and reptiles we typically work with, so they help form a nice point of contrast and comparison.
What happens when you place a GoPro camera at the end of the treadmill? Success, that’s what. BFF student Bridget Kuhlman did just that the other week in our lab during our data capture sessions, and she got this brilliant bit of POV video. You don’t see Bridget directly in the video, although you do see her finger which has a tasty smear of FerretVite which we use to coax the ferrets to walk in the line of the infrared cameras. In the background, modulating the treadmill, is BFF student Kelsey Gamble.
You will notice that this Ferret, nick-named “Latte,” walks and then rides the treadmill backwards, then walks again. Science is messy — no animal is going to walk in perfect rhythm with the treadmill from start to stop. What we do is capture all the data, and then find the motion capture portions where “Latte” and our other animals are keeping pace with the treadmill. Incidentally, we measure various body dimensions on the animals each session (in case they grow or put on/lose weight) and we note the treadmill speed so we can calculate how fast they are moving.
“Latte,” and his room-mate “Mocha,” have been temporarily loaned to us thanks to the generosity of Jen Ciraolo.