Journal of comparative physiology

, Volume 89, Issue 1, pp 93-104

First online:

The locust jump

Specialisations of the metathoracic femoral-tibial joint
  • W. J. HeitlerAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Oxford

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The locust jumps by a rapid extension of its metathoracic tibiae. The comparatively slow rate of rise of tension of the extensor tibia muscle means that if it is to shorten rapidly, it must develop tension isometrically prior to the jump by co-contracting with the flexor muscle. The extensor muscle is far stronger than the flexor and thus there has to be considerable structural specialisation of the joint to enable the flexor to prevent the tibia moving under the extensor tension. The geometry of the joint gives the flexor muscle a very large mechanical advantage over the extensor in the fully flexed position. This mechanical advantage decreases rapidly as the joint extends so that the residual flexor tension does not slow down the movement (Fig. 4). There is also a locking device associated with the flexor tendon which is engaged when the tibia is fully flexed and which holds it in this position against the developing extensor force (Fig. 5).