Researchers Analyze the Forces of Propulsion & Posture in the Stick Insect

The stick insect is a popular model organism in biological research for gaining a better understanding of insect walking movements. The advantage of the stick insect is that the structure of its body parts and nervous system are comparatively simple. For decades, textbooks have claimed that the force for maintaining body posture and driving movement was controlled independently by different joints. Now, as biologist Chris Dallmann reports, “this is not correct.” The doctoral researcher at the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) at Bielefeld University in Germany explains that “actually, one and the same joint is responsible for both functions, and we can show this with our new analyses.” Together with Professors Volker Dürr and Josef Schmitz, Dallmann presented these findings on January 20, 2016 in Proceedings of the Royal Society, a prestigious biological research journal. The article is titled “Joint Torques in a Freely Walking Insect Reveal Distinct Functions of Leg Joints in Propulsion and Posture Control.” The New York Times also featured the work in a video report on Monday, February 15. 2016. The Times report is titled “Stick Insect Helps Scientists Study How Animals Move” and it is available at: “We wanted to find out how a stick insect moves, and which functions the individual parts of the leg play in its movement,” explains Professor Schmitz, who, together with Professor Dürr is supervising Dallmann’s doctoral dissertation. “Amazingly enough, the force for propulsion and maintaining body posture comes from the same joint. This joint serves as a power unit and generates the largest amount of force in the leg.
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