The hind limb musculature of the brown kiwi, Apteryx australis mantelli



The most complete account of the hind leg muscles of the kiwi was published a century ago by Sir Richard Owen, in his seventy-fifth year. This extensively-cited work has several omissions and errors, and while certain of these were corrected by subsequent authors, sufficient uncertainty remains to warrant a reinvestigation. In the present study a detailed description of the hind leg musculature is given, based upon dissections of two frozen specimens. An indication of the possible function of each muscle is given by assessing its size, action, and fiber-arrangement, together with tentative data on the relative abundance of twitch and tonus fibers.

The correlation between surface features of bones and muscle attachments is investigated with a view to interpreting palaeontological material. Although the limb and pelvic bones are marked by numerous features which suggest muscle attachments, relatively few can be positively identified with specific muscles. Only 23% of the muscle origins and insertions can be identified, and, with three possible exceptions, no indication of relative size is given by the scars. The possibility of being able to reconstruct the musculature of the kiwi from its skeletal anatomy, much less that of its extinct relatives, is remote.