Whole-body 3D kinematics of bird take-off: key role of the legs to propel the trunk
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Previous studies showed that birds primarily use their hindlimbs to propel themselves into the air in order to take-off. Yet, it remains unclear how the different parts of their musculoskeletal system move to produce the necessary acceleration. To quantify the relative motions of the bones during the terrestrial phase of take-off, we used biplanar fluoroscopy in two species of birds, diamond dove (Geopelia cuneata) and zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). We obtained a detailed 3D kinematics analysis of the head, the trunk and the three long bones of the left leg. We found that the entire body assisted the production of the needed forces to take-off, during two distinct but complementary phases. The first one, a relatively slow preparatory phase, started with a movement of the head and an alignment of the different groups of bones with the future take-off direction. It was associated with a pitch down of the trunk and a flexion of the ankle, of the hip and, to a lesser extent, of the knee. This crouching movement could contribute to the loading of the leg muscles and store elastic energy that could be released in the propulsive phase of take-off, during the extension of the leg joints. Combined with the fact that the head, together with the trunk, produced a forward momentum, the entire body assisted the production of the needed forces to take-off. The second phase was faster with mostly horizontal forward and vertical upward translation motions, synchronous to an extension of the entire lower articulated musculoskeletal system. It led to the propulsion of the bird in the air with a fundamental role of the hip and ankle joints to move the trunk upward and forward. Take-off kinematics were similar in both studied species, with a more pronounced crouching movement in diamond dove, which can be related to a large body mass compared to zebra finch.
Keywords3D kinematics X-ray reconstruction of moving morphology Trunk Hindlimbs Zebra finch Diamond dove
The authors acknowledge the organisers of the XROMM course, EL Brainerd, SM Gatesy, DB Baier, and others at Brown University, RI, USA, in June 2010, for their informative course and their work for continually improving the method. We thank BW Tobalske and B Jackson for the surgery they performed on the animals, as well as KE Crandell for her support during the data acquisition. The authors would like to acknowledge the Concord field station, especially A Biewener for the accommodation and equipment access as well as his remarks on the draft of the manuscript. Thanks to I Ross for his help with the CT scan acquisition at the Harvard facilities. The authors want to acknowledge the anonymous reviewers whose comments significantly improved the paper.
This research was supported by grants from the UMR 7179, lʼAction Transversale du Muséum National dʼHistoire Naturelle formes possibles, formes réalisées and from Ecole Doctorale Frontières du Vivant and Bettencourt-Schueller Foundation fellowships. Travels were paid by the UMR 7179.
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