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Biology (HMC)

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Locomotory muscles typically operate over a narrow range of contraction frequencies, characterized by the predominant fiber types and functional roles. The highest documented frequencies in the synchronous sound-producing muscles of insects (550 Hz) and toadfish (200 Hz) far exceed the contraction frequencies observed in weight-bearing locomotory muscles, which have maximum documented frequencies below 15-30 Hz. Laws of scaling, however, predict that smaller arthropods may employ stride frequencies exceeding this range. In this study we measured running speed and stride frequency in two undescribed species of teneriffiid mites from the coastal sage scrub of southern California. Relative speeds of both species [129-133 body lengths (BL)s(-1)] are among the fastest documented for any animal. Measured stride frequencies for both species far exceed those documented for any weight-bearing locomotory muscle, with measured values for one species ranging from 93 Hz at 25 degrees C to 111 Hz at 45 degrees C. Stride frequencies either closely approximate or, for one species, exceed predicted values based on an interspecific scaling of frequency and animal mass. Consequently, while the ultra-high frequencies of these muscles must depend on appropriately scaled kinetics of the calcium transient and contraction-relaxation cycle, these do not appear to limit the operating frequencies during running. The predicted low muscle forces operating at these very high frequencies evidently suffice for locomotion, probably because of the larger relative muscle force generated by smaller animals.


First published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 213, no. 15 (August 2010), by the Company of Biologists.

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