Human patellae (kneecaps) are thought to act as gears, altering the mechanical advantage of knee extensor muscles during running. Similar sesamoids have evolved in the knee extensor tendon independently in birds, but it is unknown if these also affect the mechanical advantage of knee extensors. Here, we examine the mechanics of the patellofemoral joint in the helmeted guineafowl Numida meleagris using a method based on muscle and tendon moment arms taken about the patella's rotation centre around the distal femur. Moment arms were estimated from a computer model representing hindlimb anatomy, using hip, knee and patellar kinematics acquired via marker-based biplanar fluoroscopy from a subject running at 1.6 ms-1 on a treadmill. Our results support the inference that the patella of Numida does alter knee extensor leverage during running, but with a mechanical advantage generally greater than that seen in humans, implying relatively greater extension force but relatively lesser extension velocity.
Keywords: Numida meleagris; avian; biomechanics; helmeted guineafowl; kinematics; knee extensor; locomotion; patella.