To understand the catapult mechanism that propels jumping in a planthopper insect, the innervation and action of key muscles were analyzed. The large trochanteral depressor muscle, M133b,c, is innervated by two motor neurons and by two dorsal unpaired median (DUM) neurons, all with axons in N3C. A smaller depressor muscle, M133a, is innervated by two neurons, one with a large-diameter cell body, a large, blind-ending dendrite, and a giant ovoid, axon measuring 50 microm by 30 microm in nerve N5A. The trochanteral levator muscles (M132) and (M131) are innervated by N4 and N3B, respectively. The actions of these muscles in a restrained jump were divisible into a three-phase pattern. First, both hind legs were moved into a cocked position by high-frequency bursts of spikes in the levator muscles lasting about 0.5 seconds. Second, and once both legs were cocked, M133b,c received a long continuous sequence of motor spikes, but the two levators spiked only sporadically. The spikes in the two motor neurons to M133b,c on one side were closely coupled to each other and to the spikes on the other side. If one hind leg was cocked then the spikes only occurred in motor neurons to that side. The final phase was the jump movement itself, which occurred when the depressor spikes ceased and which lasted 1 ms. Muscles 133b,c activated synchronously on both sides, are responsible for generating the power, and M133a and its giant neuron may play a role in triggering the release of a jump.
(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.