Hindlimb extensor muscle function during jumping and swimming in the toad (Bufo marinus)


Gillis GB, Biewener AA. Hindlimb extensor muscle function during jumping and swimming in the toad (Bufo marinus). J Exp BiolJ Exp BiolJ Exp Biol. 2000;203 :3547-63.

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Many anurans use their hindlimbs to generate propulsive forces during both jumping and swimming. To investigate the musculoskeletal dynamics and motor output underlying locomotion in such physically different environments, we examined patterns of muscle strain and activity using sonomicrometry and electromyography, respectively, during jumping and swimming in the toad Bufo marinus. We measured strain and electromyographic (EMG) activity in four hindlimb muscles: the semimembranosus, a hip extensor; the plantaris, an ankle extensor; and the gluteus and cruralis, two knee extensors. During jumping, these four muscles are activated approximately simultaneously; however, joint extension appears to be temporally staggered, with the hip beginning to extend prior to or initially faster than the more distal knee and ankle joints. Mirroring this pattern, the gluteus and plantaris shorten quite slowly and over a small distance during the first half of limb extension during take-off, before beginning to shorten rapidly. The hip and knee extensors finish shortening near the point of take-off (when the feet leave the ground), while the ankle-extending plantaris, which exhibits the longest-duration EMG burst, on average, always completes its shortening after take-off (mean 26 ms). During swimming, activation of the four muscles is also nearly synchronous at the start of a propulsive stroke. The onset of fascicle shortening is temporally staggered, with the knee extensors beginning to shorten first, prior to the hip and ankle extensors. In addition, the knee extensors also often exhibit some degree of slow passive shortening prior to the onset of EMG activity. The offset of muscle shortening during swimming is also staggered, and to a much greater extent than during jumping. During swimming, the cruralis and gluteus finish shortening first, the semimembranosus finishes 30-60 ms later, and the plantaris, which again exhibits the longest EMG burst, finishes shortening last (mean 150 ms after the cruralis). Interestingly, much of this extended shortening in the plantaris occurs at a relatively slow velocity and may reflect passive ankle extension caused by fluid forces, associated with previously generated unsteady (accelerative) limb movements, acting on the foot. Average EMG burst intensity tends to be greater during jumping than during swimming in all muscles but the gluteus. However, EMG burst duration only changes between jumping and swimming in the cruralis (duration during jumping is nearly twice as long as during swimming). The cruralis is also the only muscle to exhibit substantially greater fractional shortening during jumping (mean 0.28) than during swimming (mean 0.20 active strain, 0.22 total strain). On the basis of these results, it appears that toad hindlimb function is altered between jumping and swimming. Moreover, these functional differences are influenced by passive effects associated with physical differences between the external environments, but are also actively mediated by shifts in the motor output and mechanical behavior of several muscles.


Gillis, G BBiewener, A Aeng1 F32 AR08559-01/AR/NIAMS NIH HHS/Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.ENGLAND2000/11/04 11:00J Exp Biol. 2000 Dec;203(Pt 23):3547-63.