Plasticity of the gastrocnemius elastic system in response to decreased work and power demand during growth

Suzanne M. Cox, Adam DeBoef, Matthew Q. Salzano, Kavya Katugam, Stephen J. Piazza, Jonas Rubenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Elastic energy storage and release can enhance performance that would otherwise be limited by the force–velocity constraints of muscle. Although functional influence of a biological spring depends on tuning between components of an elastic system (the muscle, spring-driven mass and lever system), we do not know whether elastic systems systematically adapt to functional demand. To test whether altering work and power generation during maturation alters the morphology of an elastic system, we prevented growing guinea fowl (Numida meleagris) from jumping. We compared the jump performance of our treatment group at maturity with that of controls and measured the morphology of the gastrocnemius elastic system. We found that restricted birds jumped with lower jump power and work, yet there were no significant between-group differences in the components of the elastic system. Further, subject-specific models revealed no difference in energy storage capacity between groups, though energy storage was most sensitive to variations in muscle properties (most significantly operating length and least dependent on tendon stiffness). We conclude that the gastrocnemius elastic system in the guinea fowl displays little to no plastic response to decreased demand during growth and hypothesize that neural plasticity may explain performance variation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjeb242694
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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