It has been argued that minimization of metabolic-energy costs is a primary determinant of gait selection in terrestrial animals. This view is based predominantly on data from humans and horses, which have been shown to choose the most economical gait (walking, running, galloping) for any given speed. It is not certain whether a minimization of metabolic costs is associated with the selection of other prevalent forms of terrestrial gaits, such as grounded running (a widespread gait in birds). Using biomechanical and metabolic measurements of four ostriches moving on a treadmill over a range of speeds from 0.8 to 6.7 m s -1 , we reveal here that the selection of walking or grounded running at intermediate speeds also favours a reduction in the metabolic cost of locomotion. This gait transition is characterized by a shift in locomotor kinetics from an inverted-pendulum gait to a bouncing gait that lacks an aerial phase. By contrast, when the ostrich adopts an aerial-running gait at faster speeds, there are no abrupt transitions in mechanical parameters or in the metabolic cost of locomotion. These data suggest a continuum between grounded and aerial running, indicating that they belong to the same locomotor paradigm.
We developed a three-dimensional, biomechanical computer model of the 36 major pelvic limb muscle groups in an ostrich (Struthio camelus) to investigate muscle function in this, the largest of extant birds and model organism for many studies of locomotor mechanics, body size, anatomy and evolution. Combined with experimental data, we use this model to test two main hypotheses. We first query whether ostriches use limb orientations (joint angles) that optimize the moment-generating capacities of their muscles during walking or running. Next, we test whether ostriches use limb orientations at mid-stance that keep their extensor muscles near maximal, and flexor muscles near minimal, moment arms. Our two hypotheses relate to the control priorities that a large bipedal animal might evolve under biomechanical constraints to achieve more effective static weight support. We find that ostriches do not use limb orientations to optimize the moment-generating capacities or moment arms of their muscles. We infer that dynamic properties of muscles or tendons might be better candidates for locomotor optimization. Regardless, general principles explaining why species choose particular joint orientations during locomotion are lacking, raising the question of whether such general principles exist or if clades evolve different patterns (e.g., weighting of muscle force–length or force–velocity properties in selecting postures). This leaves theoretical studies of muscle moment arms estimated for extinct animals at an impasse until studies of extant taxa answer these questions. Finally, we compare our model’s results against those of two prior studies of ostrich limb muscle moment arms, finding general agreement for many muscles. Some flexor and extensor muscles exhibit self-stabilization patterns (posture-dependent switches between flexor/extensor action) that ostriches may use to coordinate their locomotion. However, some conspicuous areas of disagreement in our results illustrate some cautionary principles. Importantly, tendon-travel empirical measurements of muscle moment arms must be carefully designed to preserve 3D muscle geometry lest their accuracy suffer relative to that of anatomically realistic models. The dearth of accurate experimental measurements of 3D moment arms of muscles in birds leaves uncertainty regarding the relative accuracy of different modelling or experimental datasets such as in ostriches. Our model, however, provides a comprehensive set of 3D estimates of muscle actions in ostriches for the first time, emphasizing that avian limb mechanics are highly three-dimensional and complex, and how no muscles act purely in the sagittal plane. A comparative synthesis of experiments and models such as ours could provide powerful synthesis into how anatomy, mechanics and control interact during locomotion and how these interactions evolve. Such a framework could remove obstacles impeding the analysis of muscle function in extinct taxa.
displacement of the lower limb necessary for steering the swinging limb clear of the stance limb and replaces what would otherwise require greater adduction/abduction and/or internal/external rotation, allowing for less complex joints, musculoskeletal geometry and neuromuscular control. Significant rotation about the joints' nonflexion/extension axes nevertheless occurs over the running stride. In particular, hip abduction and knee internal/external and varus/valgus motion may further facilitate limb clearance during the swing phase, and substantial non-flexion/extension movement at the knee is also observed during stance. Measurement of 3-D segment and joint motion in birds will be aided by the use of functionally determined axes of rotation rather than assumed axes, proving important when interpreting the biomechanics and motor control of avian bipedalism.
The purpose of this study was to examine the mechanical adaptations linked to economical locomotion in cursorial bipeds. We addressed this question by comparing mass-matched humans and avian bipeds (ostriches), which exhibit marked differences in limb structure and running economy. We hypothesized that the nearly 50 per cent lower energy cost of running in ostriches is a result of: (i) lower limb-swing mechanical power, (ii) greater stance-phase storage and release of elastic energy, and (iii) lower total muscle power output. To test these hypotheses, we used three-dimensional joint mechanical measurements and a simple model to estimate the elastic and muscle contributions to joint work and power. Contradictory to our first hypothesis, we found that ostriches and humans generate the same amounts of mechanical power to swing the limbs at a similar self-selected running speed, indicating that limb swing probably does not contribute to the difference in energy cost of running between these species. In contrast, we estimated that ostriches generate 120 per cent more stance-phase mechanical joint power via release of elastic energy compared with humans. This elastic mechanical power occurs nearly exclusively at the tarsometatarso-phalangeal joint, demonstrating a shift of mechanical power generation to distal joints compared with humans. We also estimated that positive muscle fibre power is 35 per cent lower in ostriches compared with humans, and is accounted for primarily by higher capacity for storage and release of elastic energy. Furthermore, our analysis revealed much larger frontal and internal/external rotation joint loads during ostrich running than in humans. Together, these findings support the hypothesis that a primary limb structure specialization linked to economical running in cursorial species is an elevated storage and release of elastic energy in tendon. In the ostrich, energy-saving specializations may also include passive frontal and internal/external rotation load-bearing mechanisms.
Identification of functional programmable mechanical stimulation (PMS) on tendon not only provides the insight of the tendon homeostasis under physical/pathological condition, but also guides a better engineering strategy for tendon regeneration. The aims of the study are to design a bioreactor system with PMS to mimic the in vivo loading conditions, and to define the impact of different cyclic tensile strain on tendon. Rabbit Achilles tendons were loaded in the bioreactor with/without cyclic tensile loading (0.25 Hz for 8 h/day, 0-9% for 6 days). Tendons without loading lost its structure integrity as evidenced by disorientated collagen fiber, increased type III collagen expression, and increased cell apoptosis. Tendons with 3% of cyclic tensile loading had moderate matrix deterioration and elevated expression levels of MMP-1, 3, and 12, whilst exceeded loading regime of 9% caused massive rupture of collagen bundle. However, 6% of cyclic tensile strain was able to maintain the structural integrity and cellular function. Our data indicated that an optimal PMS is required to maintain the tendon homeostasis and there is only a narrow range of tensile strain that can induce the anabolic action. The clinical impact of this study is that optimized eccentric training program is needed to achieve maximum beneficial effects on chronic tendinopathy management.
Owing to their cursorial background, ostriches (Struthio camelus) walk and run with high metabolic economy, can reach very fast running speeds and quickly execute cutting manoeuvres. These capabilities are believed to be a result of their ability to coordinate muscles to take advantage of specialized passive limb structures. This study aimed to infer the functional roles of ostrich pelvic limb muscles during gait. Existing gait data were combined with a newly developed musculoskeletal model to generate simulations of ostrich walking and running that predict muscle excitations, force and mechanical work. Consistent with previous avian electromyography studies, predicted excitation patterns showed that individual muscles tended to be excited primarily during only stance or swing. Work and force estimates show that ostrich gaits are partially hip-driven with the bi-articular hip–knee muscles driving stance mechanics. Conversely, the knee extensors acted as brakes, absorbing energy. The digital extensors generated large amounts of both negative and positive mechanical work, with increased magnitudes during running, providing further evidence that ostriches make extensive use of tendinous elastic energy storage to improve economy. The simulations also highlight the need to carefully consider non-muscular soft tissues that may play a role in ostrich gait.
SUMMARYThe region over which skeletal muscles operate on their force-length (F-L) relationship is fundamental to the mechanics, control and economy of movement. Yet surprisingly little experimental data exist on normalized length operating ranges of muscle during human gait, or how they are modulated when mechanical demands (such as force output) change. Here we explored the soleus muscle (SOL) operating lengths experimentally in a group of healthy young adults by combining subject-specific F-L relationships with in vivo muscle imaging during gait. We tested whether modulation of operating lengths occurred between walking and running, two gaits that require different levels of force production and different muscle-tendon mechanics, and examined the relationship between optimal fascicle lengths (L 0 ) and normalized operating lengths during these gaits. We found that the mean active muscle lengths reside predominantly on the ascending limbs of the F-L relationship in both gaits (walk, 0.70-0.94 L 0 ; run, 0.65-0.99 L 0 ). Furthermore, the mean normalized muscle length at the time of the peak activation of the muscle was the same between the two gaits (0.88 L 0 ). The active operating lengths were conserved, despite a fundamentally different fascicle strain pattern between walking (stretch-shorten cycle) and running (near continuous shortening). Taken together, these findings indicate that the SOL operating length is highly conserved, despite gait-dependent differences in muscle-tendon dynamics, and appear to be preferentially selected for stable force production compared with optimal force output (although length-dependent force capacity is high when maximal forces are expected to occur). Individuals with shorter L 0 undergo smaller absolute muscle excursions (P<0.05) so that the normalized length changes during walking and running remain independent of L 0 . The correlation between L 0 and absolute length change was not explained on the basis of muscle moment arms or joint excursion, suggesting that regulation of muscle strain may occur via tendon stretch.
SUMMARY The alleged high net energy cost of running and low net energy cost of walking in humans have played an important role in the interpretation of the evolution of human bipedalism and the biomechanical determinants of the metabolic cost of locomotion. This study re-explores how the net metabolic energy cost of running and walking (J kg–1m–1) in humans compares to that of animals of similar mass using new allometric analyses of previously published data. Firstly, this study shows that the use of the slope of the regression between the rate of energy expenditure and speed to calculate the net energy cost of locomotion overestimates the net cost of human running. Also, the net energy cost of human running is only 17% higher than that predicted based on their mass. This value is not exceptional given that over a quarter of the previously examined mammals and birds have a net energy cost of running that is 17% or more above their allometrically predicted value. Using a new allometric equation for the net energy cost of walking, this study also shows that human walking is 20%less expensive than predicted for their mass. Of the animals used to generate this equation, 25% have a relatively lower net cost of walking compared with their allometrically predicted value. This new walking allometric analysis also indicates that the scaling of the net energy cost of locomotion with body mass is gait dependent. In conclusion, the net costs of running and walking in humans are moderately different from those predicted from allometry and are not remarkable for an animal of its size.
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