The correlation between wing kinematics and steering muscle activity in the blowfly Calliphora vicina

J Exp Biol. 2001 Dec;204(Pt 24):4213-26.


Determining how the motor patterns of the nervous system are converted into the mechanical and behavioral output of the body is a central goal in the study of locomotion. In the case of dipteran flight, a population of small steering muscles controls many of the subtle changes in wing kinematics that allow flies to maneuver rapidly. We filmed the wing motion of tethered Calliphora vicina at high speed and simultaneously recorded multi-channel electromyographic signals from some of the prominent steering muscles in order to correlate kinematics with muscle activity. Using this analysis, we found that the timing of each spike in the basalare muscles was strongly correlated with changes in the deviation of the stroke plane during the downstroke. The relationship was non-linear such that the magnitude of the kinematic response to each muscle spike decreased with increasing levels of stroke deviation. This result suggests that downstroke deviation is controlled in part via the mechanical summation of basalare activity. We also found that interactions among the basalares and muscles III2-III4 determine the maximum forward amplitude of the wingstroke. In addition, activity in muscle I1 appears to participate in a wingbeat gearing mechanism, as previously proposed. Using these results, we have been able to correlate changes in wing kinematics with alteration in the spike rate, firing phase and combinatorial activity of identified steering muscles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Diptera / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Wings, Animal / physiology*