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Title: Compliant Substrates Disrupt Elastic Energy Storage in Jumping Tree Frogs

Arboreal frogs navigate complex environments and face diverse mechanical properties within their physical environment. Such frogs may encounter substrates that are damped and absorb energy or are elastic and can store and release energy as the animal pushes off during take-off. When dealing with a compliant substrate, a well-coordinated jump would allow for the recovery of elastic energy stored in the substrate to amplify mechanical power, effectively adding an in-series spring to the hindlimbs. We tested the hypothesis that effective use of compliant substrates requires active changes to muscle activation and limb kinematics to recover energy from the substrate. We designed an actuated force platform, modulated with a real-time feedback controller to vary the stiffness of the substrate. We quantified the kinetics and kinematics of Cuban tree frogs (Osteopilus septentrionalis) jumping off platforms at four different stiffness conditions. In addition, we used electromyography to examine the relationship between muscle activation patterns and substrate compliance during take-off in a knee extensor (m. cruralis) and an ankle extensor (m. plantaris). We find O. septentrionalis do not modulate motor patterns in response to substrate compliance. Although not actively modulated, changes in the rate of limb extension suggest a trade-off between power amplification more » and energy recovery from the substrate. Our results suggest that compliant substrates disrupt the inertial catch mechanism that allows tree frogs to store elastic energy in the tendon, thereby slowing the rate of limb extension and increasing the duration of take-off. However, the slower rate of limb extension does provide additional time to recover more energy from the substrate. This work serves to broaden our understanding of how the intrinsic mechanical properties of a system may broaden an organism’s capacity to maintain performance when facing environmental perturbations.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Integrative and Comparative Biology
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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