The force-velocity relationships during isotonic shortening were determined for the metathoracic second tergocoxal muscle of the locust Schistocerca americana (Drury). This muscle is a synchronous flight muscle. During the plateau of a tetanic contraction, the maximum shortening velocity (Vmax) determined from the force-velocity curve was 5.2 muscle lengths s−1 (25°C) and the curvature (a/Po) was 0.62. The maximum isometric force (P0) was 36.3 N cm−2.

Early in a twitch (at times shorter than the isometric twitch rise time) the values for Vmax and curvature were similar to those during the tetanic plateau, but the curves at different times during the twitch intercepted the force axis at values less than P0. Later in the twitch, Vmax declined.

A variable termed degree of activation (DA) is developed as a measure of the force-generating capacity of a muscle when this may be time-varying, as throughout most of a twitch. DA is determined from the shortening velocity at an intermediate load and is the predicted intercept of the force-velocity curve with the force axis relative to the tetanic intercept. In the locust muscle, DA rose to a maximum in 2–3 ms after the end of the latent period. DA reached 80° of the tetanic value during a single twitch; during the second twitch of a pair, the peak DA reached approximately the tetanic value. After a brief plateau, DA declined approximately exponentially. The time constant of DA decay was about 14 ms.

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Present address: Department of Physiology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA30322, USA.

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