Anatomy and Embryology

, Volume 186, Issue 1, pp 1–25 | Cite as

The avian muscle spindle

  • Alfred Maier
Review Article


The literature on the morphology and physiology of the avian muscle spindle is reviewed, with emphasis placed on the period from 1960 to 1991. Traits similar to or different from mammalian spindles are recognized. Apart from receptors with low intrafusal fiber counts, bird spindles contain two or three types of intrafusal fiber. Unlike that of mammals, the equatorial fiber structure in birds does not lend itself to classification into nuclear bag and nuclear chain types. Avian intrafusal fibers are separable into types based on differences in myosin heavy chain composition and motor innervation, but apportionment of these fiber types to individual spindles is more variable in birds than in mammals. There is morphological evidence in birds for the existence of both gamma and beta innervation; however, confirmation of these systems by physiological experiments is at best sketchy. A general lack of physiological data is currently the greatest drawback to a better understanding of how the avian receptor works, and what role it plays in sensorimotor integration.

Key words

Avian muscle spindle Connective tissue skeleton Intrafusal fiber types Innervation Development 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alfred Maier
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cell BiologyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA

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