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J Exp Biol. 1993 Jun;179:245-59.

Bioenergetic and kinematic consequences of limblessness in larval Diptera.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City 84112.


We report the cost of transport and kinematics of terrestrial locomotion by larval blowflies (Protophormia terraenovae, Diptera: Calliphoridae). We contrast inter- and intra-individual methods for estimating minimum cost of transport (MCOT) and the relationship between speed, contraction frequency and distance traveled per contraction. The minimum cost of transport calculated from intra-individual data is 2297 +/- 317 J kg-1 m-1 (S.E.M.) and the MCOT calculated from inter-individual comparisons is statistically indistinguishable at 1910 +/- 327 J kg-1 m-1. These values are almost ten times higher than the predicted value for a similar-sized limbed arthropod. Fly larvae travel by repeated peristaltic contractions and individual contractions cost about the same amount as individual strides in limbed insects. Both contraction frequency and distance traveled per contraction increase linearly with speed. Doubling the contraction frequency or the distance traveled per contraction approximately doubles speed. The cost of transport in fly larvae is among the highest recorded for terrestrial locomotion, confirming the suggestion that biomechanical and kinematic properties of limbless organisms with hydraulic skeletons lead to very high costs of transport.

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