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Journal of Experimental Biology partnership with Dryad

Muscle Firing Patterns in two Arachnids using different methods of Propulsive Leg Extension


Activity patterns of six morphologically similar, homologous muscles were recorded from the fourth leg pair in two species of arachnids that use different mechanisms to extend the femur-patella (knee) joint during locomotion. The giant whipscorpion Mastigoproctus giganteus (Uropygi) lacks femur-patella extensor muscles but extends this joint with hydraulic pressure, a mechanism that appears to be phylogenetically primitive in arachnids. The black emperor scorpion Pandinus imperator (Scorpiones) has an unusual muscle that promotes simultaneous extension at the femur-patella joint and distally adjacent patella-tibia joint. Comparison of electromyograms from freely walking animals revealed similarities in muscle firing patterns of the two species, including asymmetrical alternation of trochanter-femur levator and depressor muscles, transfemoral muscle activation during protraction and abrupt termination just prior to levator activation, and persistence of flexor activity during retraction (extension). These results indicate that the apparent evolutionary transition from hydraulic to muscular extension occurred without substantial alteration of several components of the primitive motor programme. It is suggested that the patterns of extension force generated by hydraulic pressure and by bifunctional extensors are similar and that this similarity is associated with conservation of the motorprogramme.