, Volume 136, Issue 2, pp 267–277 | Cite as

Hind limb extensor muscle architecture reflects locomotor specialisations of a jumping and a striding quadrupedal caviomorph rodent

  • Susann Rosin
  • John A. NyakaturaEmail author
Original Paper


Muscle architecture is an important factor in determining muscle function. The physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA) is directly proportional to the force-generating capacity of a muscle, while fibre length determines the capacity for a muscle’s length change. For a given muscle volume, both parameters cannot be maximised at the same time, and therefore, specialisation in accordance with specific functional demands is widely accepted. Building on this, the architecture of selected hind limb extensor muscles of two caviomorph rodent species of similar body size but with differing locomotor modes were analysed and compared. Individual fascicles of fixed cadavers were carefully removed during stepwise dissection. After removal of each fascicle, the left-behind groove within the muscle belly was digitised to capture the length and orientation of the removed fascicle. Pennation angle, muscle volume, and anatomical cross-sectional area were determined, and finally, PCSA and force-generating capacity were approximated for a hip extensor (M. biceps femoris), a knee extensor (M. vastus lateralis), and an ankle extensor (M. triceps surae). Muscle architecture appeared to reflect locomotor specialisation of a jumping (Chinchilla chinchilla) in comparison with a striding quadrupedal (Cavia porcellus) species, but considerable variability of the limited specimens analysed was found. With the biceps femoris as an exception, analysed specimens of Chinchilla had relatively more voluminous and thus metabolically expensive hind limb extensors with both a greater capacity for length change and for force generation. These results are in agreement with a greater demand for powerful hind limb extension during launches and provide further evidence that muscle architecture is adapted to differing functional demands in closely related species.


Fascicle Functional morphology Hind limb Mammal Caviomorpha Guinea pig Chinchilla 



The authors thank Heiko Stark for his help during various stages of this study. This study received funding from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), Grant No. EXC 1027 “Bild Wissen Gestaltung: ein interdisziplinäres Labor”.

Compliance with ethical standards

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AG Morphologie und FormengeschichteInstitut für Biologie & Bild Wissen Gestaltung. Ein interdisziplinäres LaborBerlinGermany

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