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J Exp Biol. 2002 May;205(Pt 10):1485-94.

Mechanical power output during running accelerations in wild turkeys.

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Department of Zoology, Oregon State University, 3029 Cordley Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331-2914, USA.


We tested the hypothesis that the hindlimb muscles of wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) can produce maximal power during running accelerations. The mechanical power developed during single running steps was calculated from force-plate and high-speed video measurements as turkeys accelerated over a trackway. Steady-speed running steps and accelerations were compared to determine how turkeys alter their running mechanics from a low-power to a high-power gait. During maximal accelerations, turkeys eliminated two features of running mechanics that are characteristic of steady-speed running: (i) they produced purely propulsive horizontal ground reaction forces, with no braking forces, and (ii) they produced purely positive work during stance, with no decrease in the mechanical energy of the body during the step. The braking and propulsive forces ordinarily developed during steady-speed running are important for balance because they align the ground reaction force vector with the center of mass. Increases in acceleration in turkeys correlated with decreases in the angle of limb protraction at toe-down and increases in the angle of limb retraction at toe-off. These kinematic changes allow turkeys to maintain the alignment of the center of mass and ground reaction force vector during accelerations when large propulsive forces result in a forward-directed ground reaction force. During the highest accelerations, turkeys produced exclusively positive mechanical power. The measured power output during acceleration divided by the total hindlimb muscle mass yielded estimates of peak instantaneous power output in excess of 400 W kg(-1) hindlimb muscle mass. This value exceeds estimates of peak instantaneous power output of turkey muscle fibers. The mean power developed during the entire stance phase increased from approximately zero during steady-speed runs to more than 150 W kg(-1) muscle during the highest accelerations. The high power outputs observed during accelerations suggest that elastic energy storage and recovery may redistribute muscle power during acceleration. Elastic mechanisms may expand the functional range of muscle contractile elements in running animals by allowing muscles to vary their mechanical function from force-producing struts during steady-speed running to power-producing motors during acceleration.

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