The storage and recovery of elastic strain energy in muscles and tendons increases the economy of locomotion in running vertebrates. In this investigation, we compared the negative and positive external work produced at individual limb joints of running dogs to evaluate which muscle-tendon systems contribute to elastic storage and to determine the extent to which the external work of locomotion is produced by muscles that shorten actively rather than by muscles that function as springs. We found that the negative and positive external work of the extensor muscles is not allocated equally among the different joints and limbs. During both trotting and galloping, the vast majority of the negative work was produced by the two distal joints, the wrist and ankle. The forelimb produced most of the negative work in both the trot and the gallop. The hindlimb produced most of the positive work during galloping, but not during trotting. With regards to elastic storage, our results indicate that the forelimb of dogs displays a greater potential for storage and recovery of elastic energy than does the hindlimb. Elastic storage appears to be more important during trotting than during galloping, and elastic storage appears to be more pronounced in the extensor muscles of the distal joints than in the extensor muscles of the proximal joints. Furthermore, our analysis indicates that a significant portion of the external work of locomotion, 26% during trotting and 56 % during galloping, is produced by actively shortening muscles. We conclude that, although elastic storage of energy is extremely important to the economy of running gaits, actively shortening muscles do make an important contribution to the work of locomotion.

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