Pre-landing wrist muscle activity in hopping toads

J Exp Biol. 2015 Aug;218(Pt 15):2410-5. doi: 10.1242/jeb.113985. Epub 2015 May 29.


Coordinated landing requires preparation. Muscles in the limbs important for decelerating the body should be activated prior to impact so that joints may be stiffened and limbs stabilized during landing. Moreover, because landings vary in impact force and timing, muscle recruitment patterns should be modulated accordingly. In toads, which land using their forelimbs, previous work has demonstrated such modulation in muscles acting at the elbow, but not at the shoulder. In this study, we used electromyography and high-speed video to test the hypothesis that antagonistic muscles acting at the wrists of toads are activated in advance of impact, and that these activation patterns are tuned to the timing and force of impact. We recorded from two wrist extensors: extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) and extensor digitorum communis longus (EDCL), and two wrist flexors: flexor carpi ulnaris (FCU) and palmaris longus (PL). Each muscle was recorded in 4-5 animals (≥15 hops per animal). In all muscles, activation intensity was consistently greatest shortly before impact, suggesting the importance of these muscles during landing. Pre-landing recruitment intensity regularly increased with aerial phase duration (i.e. hop distance) in all muscles except PL. In addition, onset timing in both wrist flexors was also modulated with hop distance, with later onset times being associated with longer hops. Thus, activation patterns in major flexors and extensors of the wrist are tuned to hop distance with respect to recruitment intensity, onset timing or both.

Keywords: Anuran; EMG; Landing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Bufo marinus / physiology*
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Forelimb / physiology
  • Joints / physiology
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*