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Motion and muscles don't always work in lockstep, researchers find in surprising new study
Date:3/14/2014

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Animals "do the locomotion" every day, whether it's walking down the hall to get some coffee or darting up a tree to avoid a predator. And until now, scientists believed the inner workings of movement were pretty much the same the nerves send a message to the muscles and there is motion.

But in a first-of-its-kind study on wild green anole lizards, biologists at the University of California, Riverside have discovered that the link between muscle function and movement is a lot more complicated than anyone realized.

"We were trying to understand how animals move in trees; how muscle, in general, deals with something as complex as climbing a tree, with its horizontal and vertical inclines, the tiny little branches and the upright trunks," said Kathleen Foster, a Ph.D. student in Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology, who performed the study. "We were expecting to find that as the movements were changing, the muscles would be generating those changes; we'd just show that and move on. Instead, we saw there isn't always this tight relationship between activity in the muscles and the movement we're seeing. Now we have new questions about how animals work."

"No one has ever looked at this before," said Timothy Higham, an assistant professor of biology and Foster's graduate adviser. "A lot of people study anoles and a lot of people remove muscles and study them in a lab, as opposed to measuring the muscles in the animal as it's moving. Our work brings the lab into the forest, and it can help us answer questions about how these animals are doing what they're doing and why they're so diverse."

Foster and Higham's findings were

Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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