Structure and neural control of the pectoralis in pigeons: implications for flight mechanics

Anat Rec. 1987 Jul;218(3):284-7. doi: 10.1002/ar.1092180309.


The pectoralis muscle in pigeons (Columba livia) is composed of two heads (sternobrachialis, thoracobrachialis) that are separately innervated and have different fiber orientations. High-speed film and electromyographic studies of free-flying pigeons reveal that the pectoralis is activated prior to wing depression (the power stroke) and that its two heads are differentially recruited during takeoff, level flight, and landing. The electrical activity patterns of both heads support an interpretation that intramuscular elasticity provides energy storage. The pectoralis is not only the prime wing depressor but is also capable of adjusting the excursion of the wing during different phases of flight.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Columbidae / physiology*
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Flight, Animal*
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Pectoralis Muscles / anatomy & histology*
  • Pectoralis Muscles / innervation
  • Pectoralis Muscles / physiology