The individual muscles of a multiple muscle group at a given joint are often assumed to function synergistically to share the load during locomotion. We examined two leg extensors of a running cockroach to test the hypothesis that leg muscles within an anatomical muscle group necessarily manage (i.e. produce, store, transmit or absorb) energy similarly during running. Using electromyographic and video motion-analysis techniques, we determined that muscles 177c and 179 are both active during the first half of the stance period during muscle shortening. Using the in vivo strain and stimulation patterns determined during running, we measured muscle power output. Although both muscles were stimulated during the first half of shortening, muscle 177c generated mechanical energy (28 W kg–1) like a motor, while muscle 179 absorbed energy (–19 W kg–1) like a brake. Both muscles exhibited nearly identical intrinsic characteristics including similar twitch kinetics and force–velocity relationships. Differences in the extrinsic factors of activation and relative shortening velocity caused the muscles to operate very differently during running. Presumed redundancy in a multiple muscle group may, therefore, represent diversity in muscle function. Discovering how muscles manage energy during behavior requires the measurement of a large number of dynamically interacting variables.
©2002 Company of Biologists
Ahn, AN, Full, RJ. A motor and a brake: two leg extensor muscles acting at the same joint manage energy differently in a running insect. J Exp Biol. 2002;205(3): 379-389.