Spatial coordination of foot contacts in unrestrained climbing insects

Theunissen L, Vikram S, Dürr V (2014)
Journal of Experimental Biology 217(18): 3242-3253.

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Animals that live in a spatially complex environment such as the canopy of a tree, constantly need to find reliable foothold in three-dimensional (3D) space. In multi-legged animals, spatial coordination among legs is thought to improve efficiency of finding foothold by avoiding searching-movements in trailing legs. In stick insects, a "targeting mechanism" has been described that guides foot-placement of hind and middle legs according to the position of their leading ipsilateral leg. So far, this mechanism was shown for standing and tethered walking animals on horizontal surfaces. Here, we investigate the efficiency of this mechanism in spatial limb coordination of unrestrained climbing animals. For this, we recorded whole-body kinematics of freely climbing stick insects and analyzed foot placement in 3D space. We found that touch-down positions of adjacent legs were highly correlated in all three spatial dimensions, revealing 3D coordinate transfer among legs. Furthermore, targeting precision depended on the position of the leading leg. A second objective was to test the importance of sensory information transfer between legs. For this, we ablated a proprioceptive hair field signaling the levation of the leg. After ablation, the operated leg swung higher and performed unexpected searching-movements. Furthermore, targeting of the ipsilateral trailing leg was less precise in antero-posterior and in dorso-ventral directions. Our results reveal that the targeting mechanism is used by unrestrained climbing stick insects in 3D space and that information from the trochanteral hair field is used in ipsilateral spatial coordination among legs.
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Theunissen L, Vikram S, Dürr V. Spatial coordination of foot contacts in unrestrained climbing insects. Journal of Experimental Biology. 2014;217(18):3242-3253.
Theunissen, L., Vikram, S., & Dürr, V. (2014). Spatial coordination of foot contacts in unrestrained climbing insects. Journal of Experimental Biology, 217(18), 3242-3253. doi:10.1242/jeb.108167
Theunissen, L., Vikram, S., and Dürr, V. (2014). Spatial coordination of foot contacts in unrestrained climbing insects. Journal of Experimental Biology 217, 3242-3253.
Theunissen, L., Vikram, S., & Dürr, V., 2014. Spatial coordination of foot contacts in unrestrained climbing insects. Journal of Experimental Biology, 217(18), p 3242-3253.
L. Theunissen, S. Vikram, and V. Dürr, “Spatial coordination of foot contacts in unrestrained climbing insects”, Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 217, 2014, pp. 3242-3253.
Theunissen, L., Vikram, S., Dürr, V.: Spatial coordination of foot contacts in unrestrained climbing insects. Journal of Experimental Biology. 217, 3242-3253 (2014).
Theunissen, Leslie, Vikram, Subhashree, and Dürr, Volker. “Spatial coordination of foot contacts in unrestrained climbing insects”. Journal of Experimental Biology 217.18 (2014): 3242-3253.
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2639454
Stick Insect Locomotion
Theunissen L, Bekemeier H, Dürr V (2014)
Bielefeld University.

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Task-dependent modification of leg motor neuron synaptic input underlying changes in walking direction and walking speed.
Rosenbaum P, Schmitz J, Schmidt J, Buschges A., J. Neurophysiol. 114(2), 2015
PMID: 26063769

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