Morphological and physiological specialization for digging in amphisbaenians, an ancient lineage of fossorial vertebrates

Navas, Carlos A., Antoniazzi, Marta M., Carvalho, Jose Eduardo, Chaui-Berlink, Jose Guilherme, James, Rob S., Jared, Carlos, Kohlsdorf, Tiana, Dal Pai-Silva, Maeli and Wilson, Robbie S. (2004) Morphological and physiological specialization for digging in amphisbaenians, an ancient lineage of fossorial vertebrates. Journal of Experimental Biology, 207 14: 2433-2441. doi:10.1242/jeb.01041

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Author Navas, Carlos A.
Antoniazzi, Marta M.
Carvalho, Jose Eduardo
Chaui-Berlink, Jose Guilherme
James, Rob S.
Jared, Carlos
Kohlsdorf, Tiana
Dal Pai-Silva, Maeli
Wilson, Robbie S.
Title Morphological and physiological specialization for digging in amphisbaenians, an ancient lineage of fossorial vertebrates
Journal name Journal of Experimental Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0022-0949
Publication date 2004-06-07
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1242/jeb.01041
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 207
Issue 14
Start page 2433
End page 2441
Total pages 9
Editor R.G. Boutilier
Place of publication Cambridge
Publisher Company of Biologyists Ltd
Collection year 2004
Language eng
Subject C1
270604 Comparative Physiology
780105 Biological sciences
Abstract Amphisbaenians are legless reptiles that differ significantly from other vertebrate lineages. Most species dig underground galleries of similar diameter to that of the animal. We studied the muscle physiology and morphological attributes of digging effort in the Brazilian amphisbaenid Leposternon microcephalum (Squamata; Amphisbaenia), which burrows by compressing soil against the upper wall of the tunnel by means of upward strokes of the head. The individuals tested (<72 g) exerted forces on the soil of up to 24 N. These forces were possible because the fibres of the longissimus dorsi, the main muscle associated with burrowing, are highly pennated, thus increasing effective muscle cross-sectional area. The muscle is characterized by a metabolic transition along its length: proximal, medial and distal fibres are fast contracting and moderately oxidative, but fibres closer to the head are richer in citrate synthase and more aerobic in nature. Distal fibres, then, might be active mainly at the final step of the compression stroke, which requires more power. For animals greater than a given diameter, the work required to compress soil increases exponentially with body diameter. Leposternon microcephalum, and probably some other highly specialized amphisbaenids, are most likely constrained to small diameters and can increase muscle mass and effective muscle cross-sectional area by increasing body length, not body diameter.
Keyword Biology
Amphisbaenia
Reptile
Muscle
Digging
Leposternon Microcephalum
Anaerobic Metabolism
Burrowing Reptile
Alba
Performance
Limbless
Muscles
Enzymes
Speed
Frog
Q-Index Code C1
Additional Notes DOI: 10.1242/jeb.01041

 
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Created: Wed, 15 Aug 2007, 13:08:48 EST