Relative growth rates of limb muscles in the diprotodont marsupial, Setonix brachyurus



The fore- and hindlimb muscles of 12 Setonix brachyurus joeys, aged 5 to 175 days postpartum, and four adults were dissected out and weighed. Individual muscles and muscle groups were analysed for absolute and relative growth changes. From comprising almost 59% of the total limb musculature at birth the forelimb muscles finally constitute just over 9% in the adult; the hindlimb muscles start at just over 41% and end at almost 91%. In both limbs, the extensor actions predominate in the proximal limb segment because of their propulsive functions, whereas in the distal segment the flexor muscles tend to be the larger because of their shock-absorbing and spring functions. During growth of the fore-limb there is a relative increase in the size of latissimus dorsi and triceps brachii and a decrease in the distal segment muscles; in the hindlimb the gluteal and hamstring muscles increase at the expense of the distal segment muscles. Specializations for speed include long distal hindlimb segments and proximally located muscle bellies. The above findings reflect the adaptations and changing locomotor patterns from birth to adult in the Quokka.