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Morphology and mechanics of myosepta in a swimming salamander (Siren lacertina).

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Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Program and Biology Department, University of Massachusetts, 611 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA 01003-9297, USA.


In contrast to the complex, three-dimensional shape of myomeres in teleost fishes, the lateral hypaxial muscles of salamanders are nearly planar and their myosepta run in a roughly straight line from mid-lateral to mid-ventral. We used this relatively simple system as the basis for a mathematical model of segmented musculature. Model results highlight the importance of the mechanics of myosepta in determining the shortening characteristics of a muscle segment. We used sonomicrometry to measure the longitudinal deformation of myomeres and the dorsoventral deformation of myosepta in a swimming salamander (Siren lacertina). Sonomicrometry results show that the myosepta allow some dorsoventral lengthening, indicating an amplification of myomere shortening that is greater than that produced by muscle fiber angle alone (10% muscle fiber shortening produces 28.7% myomere shortening). Polarized light and DIC microscopy of isolated hypaxial myosepta revealed that the collagen fiber orientation in hypaxial myomeres is primarily mediolateral. The mediolateral collagen fiber orientation, combined with our finding that the hypaxial myosepta lengthen dorsoventrally during swimming, suggests that one possible function of hypaxial myosepta in S. lacertina is to increase the strain amplification of the muscle fibers by reducing the mediolateral bulging of the myomeres and redirecting the bulging toward the dorsoventral direction.

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