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Mechanical similarity across ontogeny of digging muscles in an Australian marsupial (Isoodon fusciventer)

Martin, M.L., Warburton, N.M.ORCID: 0000-0002-8498-3053, Travouillon, K.J. and Fleming, P.A.ORCID: 0000-0002-0626-3851 (2019) Mechanical similarity across ontogeny of digging muscles in an Australian marsupial (Isoodon fusciventer). Journal of Morphology, 280 (3). pp. 423-435.

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Many mammals dig, either during foraging to access subsurface food resources, or in creating burrows for shelter. Digging requires large forces produced by muscles and transmitted to the soil via the skeletal system; thus fossorial mammals tend to have characteristic modifications of the musculoskeletal system that reflect their digging ability. Bandicoots (Marsupialia: Peramelidae) scratch‐dig mainly to source food, searching for subterranean food items including invertebrates, seeds, and fungi. They have musculoskeletal features for digging, including shortened, robust forelimb bones, large muscles, and enlarged muscle attachment areas. Here, we compared changes in the ontogenetic development of muscles associated with digging in the Quenda (Isoodon fusciventer). We measured muscle mass (m m), pennation angle, and fiber length (FL) to calculate physiological cross‐sectional area (PCSA; a proxy of maximum isometric force) as well as estimate the maximum isometric force (Fmax) for 34 individuals ranging in body size from 124 to 2,390 g. Males grow larger than females in this bandicoot species, however, we found negligible sex differences in mass‐specific m m, PCSA or FL for our sample. Majority of the forelimb muscles PCSA showed a positive allometric relationship with total body mass, while m m and FL in the majority of forelimb muscles showed isometry. Mechanical similarity was tested, and two thirds of forelimb muscles maximum isometric forces (Fmax) scaled with isometry; therefore the forelimb is primarily mechanical similar throughout ontogeny. PCSA showed a significant difference between scaling slopes between main movers in the power stroke, and main movers of the recovery stroke of scratch‐digging. This suggests that some forelimb muscles grow with positive allometry, specially these associated with the power stroke of digging. Intraspecific variation in PCSA is rarely considered in the literature, and thus this is an important study quantifying changes in muscle architectural properties with growth in a mammalian model of scratch‐digging.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Copyright: © 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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