A platform was lowered from beneath suspended crayfish, Cherax destructor, to evoke slow abdominal extension. The movements were filmed and the length between segments plotted as a function of time. Unlike abdominal flexion, which starts posteriorly and progresses anteriorly, extension occurs at all joints simultaneously. Although the duration of extension varied from trial to trial for an individual, the movement was organised in a stereotyped manner: the abdomen achieved a consistent position for any given proportion of the time for complete extension. We examined the role of the abdominal muscle receptor organs (MROs) in extension by cutting the nerves of selected MROs to abolish their input. The extension movement was measured before and after nerve section for animals with either unloaded or loaded abdomens. Removal of MRO input had no significant effect on extension of the unloaded abdomen. In animals with a loaded abdomen, the extension at joints spanned by sectioned MROs was slowed, whereas that at joints with intact MROs was not. The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the MRO is an error detector in a servo-loop controlling abdominal position. The results provide the first demonstration that this load-compensating reflex loop operates during naturally evoked extension of the abdomen under constant load.

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