Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Muscle fibre types in the reduced forelimb and enlarged hindlimb of the quokka (Setonix brachyurus, Macropodidae)

A. Casinos A E , N. Milne B , F. K. Jouffroy C and M. F. Médina D

A Departament de Biologia Evolutiva, Ecologia i Ciències Ambientals, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona 08007, Spain.

B School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

C Deceased. Formerly of CNRS, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris 75005, France and Anatomical Sciences, University of Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11790, USA.

D USM 301 Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris 75005, France.

E Corresponding author. Email: acasinos@ub.edu

Australian Journal of Zoology 64(4) 277-284 https://doi.org/10.1071/ZO15055
Submitted: 15 September 2015  Accepted: 28 October 2016   Published: 1 December 2016

Abstract

The quokka (Setonyx brachyurus) is restricted to two offshore islands and small isolates on the mainland of south-western Australia. It displays a tendency to saltatorial locomotion and moves at speed by bipedal hopping, although it also uses its forelimbs at low speed. Its bipedal adaptation involves enlarged hind limbs, with elongated feet. The fibre type distribution of the elbow and knee extensors, and the ankle plantar flexors, in comparison with two eutherians, the quadrupedal rhesus monkey, as a locomotor generalist, and the jerboa, a small eutherian hopping species morphologically similar to the quokka, were studied. The quokka’s forelimb showed the same characteristics as that of the jerboa, lacking the fatigue-resistant Type I fibres that are used to sustain posture. As in the jerboa, the gastrocnemius lateralis was the muscle head with the highest proportion of fast twitch fibres. Muscular fibre pattern is not identical in the quokka and the jerboa hindlimb, but it appears that both species have similar anatomical adaptations to saltatorial locomotion. Differences in muscle fibre proportions could be due to several factors including, resting posture, body size and the propensity for elastic energy storage, the burrowing behaviour of the jerboa, but also to phylogenetic constraints where the adaptation to hop on the hindlimbs is a shared behaviour of the Macropodoidea (jerboas are the only Dipodidae to have elongated hindlimbs).

Additional keywords: hopping, locomotion, marsupials.


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