Spring or String: Does Tendon Elastic Action Influence Wing Muscle Mechanics in Bat Flight?

Proc Biol Sci. 2015 Oct 7;282(1816):20151832. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1832.


Tendon springs influence locomotor movements in many terrestrial animals, but their roles in locomotion through fluids as well as in small-bodied mammals are less clear. We measured muscle, tendon and joint mechanics in an elbow extensor of a small fruit bat during ascending flight. At the end of downstroke, the tendon was stretched by elbow flexion as the wing was folded. At the end of upstroke, elastic energy was recovered via tendon recoil and extended the elbow, contributing to unfurling the wing for downstroke. Compared with a hypothetical 'string-like' system lacking series elastic compliance, the tendon spring conferred a 22.5% decrease in muscle fascicle strain magnitude. Our findings demonstrate tendon elastic action in a small flying mammal and expand our understanding of the occurrence and action of series elastic actuator mechanisms in fluid-based locomotion.

Keywords: bioinspiration; biological springs; biomechanics; elastic energy storage; flight.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Flight, Animal*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Tendons / physiology*
  • Wings, Animal / physiology*