Patterns of Limb and Epaxial Muscle Activity During Walking in the Fire Salamander, Salamandra salamandra

Pierce, S E and Lamas, L P and Pelligand, L and Schilling, N and Hutchinson, J R (2020) Patterns of Limb and Epaxial Muscle Activity During Walking in the Fire Salamander, Salamandra salamandra. Integrative Organismal Biology, 2 (1). ISSN 2517-4843

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Synopsis Salamanders and newts (urodeles) are often used as a model system to elucidate the evolution of tetrapod locomotion. Studies range from detailed descriptions of musculoskeletal anatomy and segment kinematics, to bone loading mechanics and inferring central pattern generators. A further area of interest has been in vivo muscle activity patterns, measured through electromyography (EMG). However, most prior EMG work has primarily focused on muscles of the forelimb or hindlimb in specific species or the axial system in others. Here we present data on forelimb, hindlimb, and epaxial muscle activity patterns in one species, Salamandra salamandra, during steady state walking. The data are calibrated to limb stride cycle events (stance phase, swing phase), allowing direct comparisons to homologous muscle activation patterns recorded for other walking tetrapods (e.g., lizards, alligators, turtles, mammals). Results demonstrate that Salamandra has similar walking kinematics and muscle activity patterns to other urodele species, but that interspecies variation does exist. In the forelimb, both the m. dorsalis scapulae and m. latissimus dorsi are active for 80% of the forelimb swing phase, while the m. anconaeus humeralis lateralis is active at the swing–stance phase transition and continues through 86% of the stance phase. In the hindlimb, both the m. puboischiofemoralis internus and m. extensor iliotibialis anterior are active for 30% of the hindlimb swing phase, while the m. caudofemoralis is active 65% through the swing phase and remains active for most of the stance phase. With respect to the axial system, both the anterior and posterior m. dorsalis trunci display two activation bursts, a pattern consistent with stabilization and rotation of the pectoral and pelvic girdles. In support of previous assertions, comparison of Salamandra muscle activity timings to other walking tetrapods revealed broad-scale similarities, potentially indicating conservation of some aspects of neuromuscular function across tetrapods. Our data provide the foundation for building and testing dynamic simulations of fire salamander locomotor biomechanics to better understand musculoskeletal function. They could also be applied to future musculoskeletal simulations of extinct species to explore the evolution of tetrapod locomotion across deep-time.

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