Contractions of skeletal muscles to generate in vivo movement involve dynamic changes in contractile and elastic tissue strains that likely interact to influence the force and work of a muscle. However, studies of the in vivo dynamics of skeletal muscle and tendon strains remain largely limited to bipedal animals, and rarely cover the broad spectra of movement requirements met by muscles that operate as motors, struts, or brakes across the various gaits that animals commonly use and conditions they encounter. Using high-speed bi-planar fluoromicrometry, we analyze in vivo strains within the rat medial gastrocnemius (MG) across a range of gait and slope conditions. These conditions require changes in muscle force ranging from decline walk (low) to incline gallop (high). Measurements are made from implanted (0.5–0.8 mm) tantalum spheres marking MG mid-belly width, mid-belly thickness, as well as strains of distal fascicles, the muscle belly, and the Achilles tendon. During stance, as the muscle contracts, muscle force increases linearly with respect to gait–slope combinations, and both shortening and lengthening fiber strains increase from approximately 5 to 15% resting length. Contractile change in muscle thickness (thickness strain) decreases (r2 = 0.86; p = 0.001); whereas, the change in muscle width (width strain) increases (r2 = 0.88; p = 0.001) and tendon strain increases (r2 = 0.77; p = 0.015). Our results demonstrate force-dependency of contractile and tendinous tissue strains with compensatory changes in shape for a key locomotor muscle in the hind limb of a small quadruped. These dynamic changes are linked to the ability of a muscle to tune its force and work output as requirements change with locomotor speed and environmental conditions.
It is generally accepted that most non-mammal tetrapods have a hinge-like jaw operation restricted to vertical opening and closing movements. Many mammal jaw joints, by contrast, operate in more complex, three-dimensional ways, involving not only vertical, but also propalinal (rostro-caudal) and transverse (lateral) movements. Data on intraoral food processing in lissamphibians and sauropsids has prompted a generally accepted view that these groups mostly swallow food unreduced, and that in those cases where lissamphibians and sauropsids chew, they mostly use simple vertical jaw movements for food processing. The exception to that generally accepted view being some propalinal chewing in sauropsids. We combined 3D kinematics and morphological analyses from biplanar high-speed video fluoroscopy and micro-CT to determine how the paedomorphic salamander Siren intermedia treats captured food. We discovered that S. intermedia not only uses intraoral food processing, but that the elaborated morphology of its jaw joint facilitates mandibular motions in all three planes, resulting in complex three-dimensional chewing. Thus, our data challenge the commonly held view that complex three-dimensional chewing movements are exclusive to mammals, by suggesting that complex chewing mechanisms might evolved early in tetrapod evolution.
Both biological and artificial fliers must contend with aerial perturbations that are ubiquitous in the outdoor environment. Flapping fliers are generally least stable, but also the most maneuverable in roll, yet roll control in biological fliers remains less well understood. Hummingbirds are suitable models for linking aerodynamic perturbations to flight control strategies, as these small, powerful fliers are capable of remaining airborne even in adverse airflows. We challenged hummingbirds to fly within a longitudinally oriented vortex that imposed a continuous roll perturbation, measured wing kinematics and neuromotor activation of the major flight muscles with synchronized high-speed video and electromyography and used computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to estimate the aerodynamic forces generated by wing motions. Hummingbirds responded to the perturbation using bilaterally different activation of the main flight muscles and maintained symmetry in most major aspects of wing motion including stroke amplitude, stroke plane angle, and flapping frequency. However, hummingbirds also displayed consistent bilateral differences in subtle wing kinematics traits, including wing rotation and elevation. CFD modeling implicate asymmetric responses in wing rotation as important for generating the necessary stabilizing torques, suggesting that intrinsic wing muscles play a critical role in aerodynamic control. The birds also augment flight stabilization by adjusting body and tail posture to expose greater surface area to upwash than to the undesirable downwash. Our results provide insight into the remarkable capacity of hummingbirds to maintain flight control and bio-inspiration for simple yet effective control strategies for robotic fliers to contend with unfamiliar and challenging real-word aerial conditions.
The evolution of upright limb posture in mammals may have enabled modifications of the forelimb for diverse locomotor ecologies. A rich fossil record of non-mammalian synapsids holds the key to unraveling the transition from “sprawling” to “erect” limb function in the precursors to mammals, but a detailed understanding of muscle functional anatomy is a necessary prerequisite to reconstructing postural evolution in fossils. Here we characterize the gross morphology and internal architecture of muscles crossing the shoulder joint in two morphologically-conservative extant amniotes that form a phylogenetic and morpho-functional bracket for non-mammalian synapsids: the Argentine black and white tegu Salvator merianae and the Virginia opossum Didelphis virginiana. By combining traditional physical dissection of cadavers with nondestructive three-dimensional digital dissection, we find striking similarities in muscle organization and architectural parameters. Despite the wide phylogenetic gap between our study species, distal muscle attachments are notably similar, while differences in proximal muscle attachments are driven by modifications to the skeletal anatomy of the pectoral girdle that are well-documented in transitional synapsid fossils. Further, correlates for force production, physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA), muscle gearing (pennation), and working range (fascicle length) are statistically indistinguishable for an unexpected number of muscles. Functional tradeoffs between force production and working range reveal muscle specializations that may facilitate increased girdle mobility, weight support, and active stabilization of the shoulder in the opossum—a possible signal of postural transformation. Together, these results create a foundation for reconstructing the musculoskeletal anatomy of the non-mammalian synapsid pectoral girdle with greater confidence, as we demonstrate by inferring shoulder muscle PCSAs in the fossil non-mammalian cynodont Massetognathus pascua
Leg stiffness, commonly estimated as the 'compression' of a defined leg element in response to a load, has long been used to characterize terrestrial locomotion. This study investigated how goats adjust the stiffness of their hindlimbs to accommodate surfaces of different stiffness. Goats provide a compelling animal model for studying leg stiffness modulation, because they skillfully ambulate over a range of substrates that vary in compliance. To investigate the adjustments that goats make when walking over such substrates, ground reaction forces and three-dimensional trajectories of hindlimb markers were recorded as goats walked on rigid, rubber and foam surfaces. Net joint moments, power and work at the hip, knee, ankle and metatarsophalangeal joints were estimated throughout stance via inverse dynamics. Hindlimb stiffness was estimated from plots of total leg force versus total leg length, and individual joint stiffness was estimated from plots of joint moment versus joint angle. Our results support the hypothesis that goats modulate hindlimb stiffness in response to surface stiffness; specifically, hindlimb stiffness decreased on the more compliant surfaces (P<0.002). Estimates of joint stiffness identified hip and ankle muscles as the primary drivers of these adjustments. When humans run on compliant surfaces, they generally increase leg stiffness to preserve their center-of-mass mechanics. We did not estimate center-of-mass mechanics in this study; nevertheless, our estimates of hindlimb stiffness suggest that goats exhibit a different behavior. This study offers new insight into mechanisms that allow quadrupeds to modulate their gait mechanics when walking on surfaces of variable compliance.
Muscle function changes to meet the varying mechanical demands of locomotion across different gait and grade conditions. A muscle's work output is determined by time-varying patterns of neuromuscular activation, muscle force and muscle length change, but how these patterns change under different conditions in small animals is not well defined. Here, we report the first integrated in vivo force–length and activation patterns in rats, a commonly used small animal model, to evaluate the dynamics of two distal hindlimb muscles (medial gastrocnemius and plantaris) across a range of gait (walk, trot and gallop) and grade (level and incline) conditions. We use these data to explore how the pattern of force production, muscle activation and muscle length changes across conditions in a small quadrupedal mammal. As hypothesized, we found that the rat muscles show limited fascicle strains during active force generation in stance across gaits and grades, indicating that these distal rat muscles generate force economically but perform little work, similar to patterns observed in larger animals during level locomotion. Additionally, given differences in fiber type composition and variation in motor unit recruitment across the gait and grade conditions examined here for these muscles, the in vivo force–length behavior and neuromuscular activation data reported here can be used to validate improved two-element Hill-type muscle models.
Measuring motion of the human foot presents a unique challenge due to the large number of closely packed bones with congruent articulating surfaces. Optical motion capture (OMC) and multi-segment models can be used to infer foot motion, but might be affected by soft tissue artifact (STA). Biplanar videoradiography (BVR) is a relatively new tool that allows direct, non-invasive measurement of bone motion using high-speed, dynamic x-ray images to track individual bones. It is unknown whether OMC and BVR can be used interchangeably to analyse multi-segment foot motion. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine the agreement in kinematic measures of dynamic activities. Nine healthy participants performed three walking and three running trials while BVR was recorded with synchronous OMC. Bone position and orientation was determined through manual scientific-rotoscoping. The OMC and BVR kinematics were co-registered to the same coordinate system, and BVR tracking was used to create virtual markers for comparison to OMC during dynamic trials. Root mean square (RMS) differences in marker positions and joint angles as well as a linear fit method (LFM) was used to compare the outputs of both methods. When comparing BVR and OMC, sagittal plane angles were in good agreement (ankle: R2 = 0.947, 0.939; Medial Longitudinal Arch (MLA) Angle: R2 = 0.713, 0.703, walking and running, respectively). When examining the ankle, there was a moderate agreement between the systems in the frontal plane (R2 = 0.322, 0.452, walking and running, respectively), with a weak to moderate correlation for the transverse plane (R2 = 0.178, 0.326, walking and running, respectively). However, root mean squared error (RMSE) showed angular errors ranging from 1.06 to 8.31° across the planes (frontal: 3.57°, 3.67°, transverse: 4.28°, 4.70°, sagittal: 2.45°, 2.67°, walking and running, respectively). Root mean square (RMS) differences between OMC and BVR marker trajectories were task dependent with the largest differences in the shank (6.0 ± 2.01 mm) for running, and metatarsals (3.97 ± 0.81 mm) for walking. Based on the results, we suggest BVR and OMC provide comparable solutions to foot motion in the sagittal plane, however, interpretations of out-of-plane movement should be made carefully.
In frogs and salamanders, movements of the eyeballs in association with an open palate have often been proposed to play a functional role in lung breathing. In this “palatal buccal pump,” the eyeballs are elevated during the lowering of the buccal floor to suck air in through the nares, and the eyeballs are lowered during elevation of the buccal floor to help press air into the lungs. Here, we used X-Ray Reconstruction of Moving Morphology to investigate eye movements during lung breathing and feeding in bullfrogs and axolotls. Our data do not show eye movements that would be in accordance with the palatal buccal pump. On the contrary, there is a small passive elevation of the eyeballs when the buccal floor is raised. Inward drawing of the eyeballs occurs only during body motion and for prey transport in bullfrogs, but this was not observed in axolotls. Each eye movement in bullfrogs has a vertical, a mediolateral, and an anteroposterior component. Considering the surprisingly weak posterior motion component of the eyeballs, their main role in prey transport might be fixing the prey by pressing it against the buccal floor. The retraction of the buccal floor would then contribute to the posterior push of the prey. Because our study provides no evidence for a palatal buccal pump in frogs and salamanders, there is also no experimental support for the idea of a palatal buccal pump in extinct temnospondyl amphibians, in contrast to earlier suggestions.