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J Morphol. 1996 Oct;230(1):1-16.

Hopping and swimming in the leopard frog, Rana pipiens: I. Step cycles and kinematics.

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Department of Biology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte 28223, USA.


This study presents a model for the step cycle patterns used during both hopping and swimming by the leopard frog, Rana pipiens. The two behaviors are essentially similar in movement pattern and in the ways they are modified from quadrupedal gaits. In hopping, there is marked hind limb extension throughout stance. The swing begins with a suspension equivalent to the leap that occurs in a galloping or bounding quadruped. Following suspension, as the frog descends from the apex of its leap, the hind limbs remain posterior and in line with the spine while they flex. Near the end of flexion, there is a rapid downward rotation of the hindquarters to bring the hind feet underneath the body. This movement utilizes the planted forelimb as a pivot. A similar pattern of movement occurs in swimming; the stance (propulsion) phase involves extension at all hind limb joints. The swing (recovery) phase begins with the hind feet fully extended and includes a protracted gliding phase, equivalent to the suspension in the hop. The hind limb then recovers to its initial position during a flexion phase. Since there is no landing and the hind limbs remain lateral rather than ventral to the pelvis, less flexion occurs in the spine or the limb joints. In both behaviors, the extensor muscles of hip (M. semimembranosus), knee (M. cruralis), and ankle (M. plantaris longus) achieve their longest lengths, when they likely can produce near maximal force, at the beginning of extension. All three muscles shorten during extension, but, because they are multiple-joint muscles, the amount of shortening is relatively small (approximately 15%). Hopping and swimming in frogs are comparable asymmetrical gaits with the same relative contact intervals (25% of stride). The step cycles in both gaits are modified from quadrupedal locomotion in the same ways: by 1) loss of knee and ankle extension toward the ground prior to landing (or end of flexion in swimming), 2) loss of a yield phase on landing (or end of flexion in swimming), and 3) inclusion of extended suspensions in both gaits.

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