, Volume 185, Issue 2, pp 157-172

Elasticity and movements of the cockroach tarsus in walking

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Anatomical, kinematic and ablation studies were performed to evaluate the contribution of elasticity in use of the cockroach tarsus (foot) in walking. The distal tarsus (claws and arolium) engages the substrate during the stance phase of walking by the action of a single muscle, the retractor unguis. Kinematic and ablation studies demonstrated that tarsal disengagement occurs at the end of stance, in part via the action of elastic elements at the penultimate tarsal joint. In isolated legs, this joint exhibits very rapid (less than 20 ms duration) recoil to extension when released from the engaged position, and recoil is even more rapid (less than 10 ms) after removal of the retractor tendon (apodeme). The joint also possesses an enlarged cuticular condyle which is the attachment for ligaments and articular membranes, some of which fulfill morphological criteria consistent with the presence of the elastic protein resilin. Measurements of restoring forces generated by joint displacement indicate that they are graded but could readily lift the mass of the distal tarsus. This biomechanical design can facilitate efficient use of the tarsus in walking while under active control by only a single muscle and may also be highly advantageous when cockroaches very rapidly traverse irregular terrain.

Accepted: 16 September 1998