The muscle forces and stresses occurring during normal locomotor activity in kangaroo rats are compared with the peak isometric force developed by the same muscles in situ. Two methods were used simultaneously to determine the stresses (force/cross-sectional area) acting in the ankle extensors during steady-speed hopping and during jumps when animals were startled: a direct measurement using a force buckle surgically implanted around a tendon; and an indirect measurement using a force platform/cine analysis technique. We obtained essentially the same values with the two techniques. We found that at slow speeds (0.7 m s-1) the ankle extensor muscles of kangaroo rats exerted 20% of the maximum isometric force developed when the muscles were stimulated via the tibial nerve. This increased to 53% at higher speeds (1.9 m s-1). At the animals's preferred hopping speed (1.5 m s-1), peak force was approximately 40% of maximum isometric force. In jumps when animals were startled, peak forces as high as 175% of the maximal elicited isometric force were recorded. These high forces always occurred when the muscles were being stretched. It appears that kangaroo rats utilize nearly the entire range of muscle force possible during normal locomotor events (i.e. up to 175% of maximum isometric force when muscles are stretched).

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