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Active Stretch-Shorten Contractions of the M. Pectoralis in the European Starling (Sturnus Vulgaris): Evidence From Electromyography and Contractile Properties

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

An analysis of the contractile properties of the muscles that control the wing is requisite to an understanding of the mechanics and neural control of bird flight. It has been demonstrated that for starlings in flight, electrical activity (EMG) of the M. pectoralis begins during the upstroke prior to the beginning of downstroke (DIAL et al., 1987). In the present study, the isometric contractile properties of the sternobrachialis (SB) head of the M. pectoralis in European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) were measured. Electromechanical delays of 3-5 ms from EMG onset to force in isolated muscle suggest that the SB is actively stretched at the end of the upstroke; a finding with implications for the cost of flight. Average twitch contraction and relaxation times and times of force rise and fall during maximum tetanus do not possess a simple relationship to wingbeat frequency. Additional parameters of muscle arc suggested for study.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, U.S.A; 2: Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.


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