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Hopping isn't always about the legs: forelimb muscle activity patterns during toad locomotion

Authors

  • Trupti Akella,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts
    2. Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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  • Gary B. Gillis

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts
    • Department of Biological Sciences, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA 01075
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Abstract

Although toads are not known for their jumping ability, they are excellent at landing, using their forelimbs to stabilize and decelerate the body as they transition between hops. Forelimb muscles must play important roles during this landing behavior, but to date our understanding of forelimb muscle function during jumping in anurans, particularly after takeoff, is quite limited. Here, we use simultaneous high-speed video and electromyography to characterize the timing and intensity of electrical activity patterns of six muscles that act at the shoulder or elbow joints in the cane toad, Bufo marinus. In particular, we aim to address the importance of these muscles with respect to various potential roles during hopping (e.g. contributing to propulsion during takeoff, resisting impact forces during landing). Five of the six recorded muscles exhibited their highest average intensities during the aerial phase of the hop, with the most intense activity present near forelimb touchdown. In contrast, no muscles exhibited high levels of activity in the initial phase of takeoff. We interpret these data to indicate that the forelimb muscles studied here are likely unimportant in augmenting force production during takeoff, but are critical for both mid-air forelimb positioning and resisting the forces associated with impact. The onset timing of elbow extensors seems to occur at a nearly fixed interval before impact, regardless of hop length, suggesting that these muscles are particularly tuned to resisting impact. J. Exp. Zool. 315:1–11, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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