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Static versus dynamic muscle modelling in extinct species: a biomechanical case study of the Australopithecus afarensis pelvis and lower extremity.

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Wiseman, Ashleigh LA 
Charles, James P 
Hutchinson, John R 


The force a muscle generates is dependent on muscle structure, in which fibre length, pennation angle and tendon slack length all influence force production. Muscles are not preserved in the fossil record and these parameters must be estimated when constructing a musculoskeletal model. Here, we test the capability of digitally reconstructed muscles of the Australopithecus afarensis model (specimen AL 288-1) to maintain an upright, single-support limb posture. Our aim was to ascertain the influence that different architectural estimation methods have on muscle specialisation and on the subsequent inferences that can be extrapolated about limb function. Parameters were estimated for 36 muscles in the pelvis and lower limb and seven different musculoskeletal models of AL 288-1 were produced. These parameters represented either a 'static' Hill-type muscle model (n = 4 variants) which only incorporated force, or instead a 'dynamic' Hill-type muscle model with an elastic tendon and fibres that could vary force-length-velocity properties (n = 3 variants). Each muscle's fibre length, pennation angle, tendon slack length and maximal isometric force were calculated based upon different input variables. Static (inverse) simulations were computed in which the vertical and mediolateral ground reaction forces (GRF) were incrementally increased until limb collapse (simulation failure). All AL 288-1 variants produced somewhat similar simulated muscle activation patterns, but the maximum vertical GRF that could be exerted on a single limb was not consistent between models. Three of the four static-muscle models were unable to support >1.8 times body weight and produced models that under-performed. The dynamic-muscle models were stronger. Comparative results with a human model imply that similar muscle group activations between species are needed to sustain single-limb support at maximally applied GRFs in terms of the simplified static simulations (e.g., same walking pose) used here. This approach demonstrated the range of outputs that can be generated for a model of an extinct individual. Despite mostly comparable outputs, the models diverged mostly in terms of strength.



Biomechanics, Hill-type muscle model, Hominin, Musculoskeletal, Simulation, Humans, Muscle, Skeletal, Tendons, Lower Extremity, Walking, Pelvis

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Isaac Newton Trust (21.08(a))
Leverhulme Trust (ECF-2021-054)
Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship: ECF-2021–054. The Isaac Newton Trust, University of Cambridge.
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