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, 215 (Pt 4), 578-83

Hydraulic Leg Extension Is Not Necessarily the Main Drive in Large Spiders


Hydraulic Leg Extension Is Not Necessarily the Main Drive in Large Spiders

Tom Weihmann et al. J Exp Biol.


Unlike most other arthropods, spiders have no extensor muscles in major leg joints. Therefore, hydraulic pressure generated in the prosoma provides leg extension. For decades, this mechanism was held responsible for the generation of the majority of the ground reaction forces, particularly in the hind legs. During propulsion, the front leg pairs must shorten whereas the hind legs have to be extended. Assuming that hind legs are essentially driven by hydraulics, their force vectors must pass the leg joints ventrally. However, at least in accelerated escape manoeuvres, we show here for the large cursorial spider species Ancylometes concolor that these force vectors, when projected into the leg plane, pass all leg joints dorsally. This indicates a reduced impact of the hydraulic mechanism on the generation of ground reaction forces. Although hydraulic leg extension still modulates their direction, the observed steep force vectors at the hind legs indicate a strong activity of flexors in the proximal joint complex that push the legs against the substrate. Consequently, the muscular mechanisms are dominant at least in the hind legs of large spiders.

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