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Zoolog Sci. 2004 Feb;21(2):123-30.

Changing motor patterns of the 3rd axillary muscle activities associated with longitudinal control in freely flying hawkmoths.

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Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.


The 3rd axillary muscles (3AXMs) in the mesothorax in hawkmoths are direct flight muscles and pull forewings back along to the body axis. The 3AXMs are regarded as steering muscles because of their changeable activities during turning flight under tethered conditions. We investigated activities of the upper unit of the 3AXMs during free flight with a micro-telemetry device and captured body and wing movements by high-speed cameras. The 3AXM was activated with 1 to 3 spikes per each wingbeat cycle but sometimes ceased to fire. The phase of the onset of the activities was, even though it was variable, close to the phase of the elevator muscle activities. Therefore the upper unit of the 3AXM activities would affect upstroke properties phasically including wing retractions. We focused on longitudinal flight control and identified a correlation between the phase of the 3AXM and body pitch angle, which is important kinematical parameter for longitudinal control in insect flight. The phasic changes of the 3AXM activities would support quick changes in longitudinal control.

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