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Publication - Dr Gregory Sutton

    Muscle-spring dynamics in time-limited, elastic movements


    Rosario, M, Sutton, G, Patek, S & Sawicki, G, 2016, ‘Muscle-spring dynamics in time-limited, elastic movements’. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol 283.


    Muscle contractions that load in-series springs with slow speed over a long duration do maximal work and store the most elastic energy. However, time constraints, such as those experienced during escape and predation behaviors, may prevent animals from achieving maximal force capacity from their muscles during spring loading. Here we ask whether animals that have limited time for elastic energy storage operate with springs that are tuned to sub-maximal force production. To answer this question, we used a dynamic model of a muscle-spring system undergoing a fixed-end contraction, with parameters from a time-limited spring-loader (bullfrog: Lithobates catesbeiana) and a non time-limited spring-loader (grasshopper: Schistocerca gregaria). We found that when muscles have less time to contract, stored elastic energy is maximized with lower spring stiffness (quantified as spring constant). The spring stiffness measured in bullfrog tendons permitted less elastic energy storage than was predicted by a modeled, maximal muscle contraction. However, when muscle contractions were modeled using biologically-relevant loading times for bullfrog jumps (50 ms), tendon stiffness actually maximized elastic energy storage. In contrast, grasshoppers, which are not time limited, exhibited spring stiffness that maximized elastic energy storage when modeled with a maximal muscle contraction. These findings demonstrate the significance of evolutionary variation in tendon and apodeme properties to realistic jumping contexts and the importance of considering the effect of muscle dynamics and behavioral constraints when considering energy storage in muscle-spring systems.

    Full details in the University publications repository