Ontogeny of flight
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Summary Postnatal changes in wing morphology, flight ability, muscle morphology, and histochemistry were investigated in the little brown bat, Myotis lucifugus. The pectoralis major, acromiodeltoideus, and quadriceps femoris muscles were examined using stains for myofibrillar ATPase, succinate dehydrogenase (SDH), and mitochondrial α-glycerophosphate dehydrogenase (α-GPDH) enzyme reactions. Bats first exhibited spontaneous, drop-evoked flapping behavior at 10 days, short horizontal flight at 17 days, and sustained flight at 24 days of age. Wing loading decreased and aspect ratio increased during postnatal development, each reaching adult range before the onset of sustained flight. Histochemically, fibers from the three muscles were undifferentiated at birth and had lower oxidative and glycolytic capacities compared to other age groups. Cross-sectional areas of fibers from the pectoralis and acromiodeltoideus muscles increased significantly at an age when dropevoked flapping behavior was first observed, suggesting that the neuromuscular mechanism controlling flapping did not develop until this time. Throughout the postnatal growth period, pectoralis and acromiodeltoideus muscle mass and fiber cross-sectional area increased significantly. By day 17 the pectoralis muscle had become differentiated in glycolytic capacity, as indicated by the mosaic staining pattern for α-GPDH. By contrast, the quadriceps fibers were relatively large at birth and slowly increased in size during the postnatal period. Fiber differentiation was evident at the time young bats began to fly, as indicated by a mosaic pattern of staining for myosin ATPase. These results indicate that flight muscles (pectoralis and acromiodeltoideus) are less well developed at birth and undergo rapid development just before the onset of flight. By contrast the quadriceps femoris muscle, which is required for postural control, is more developed at birth than the flight muscles and grows more slowly during subsequent development.
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