Small deviations in kinematics and body form dictate muscle performances in the finely tuned avian downstroke

Marc E. Deetjen, Diana D. Chin, Ashley M. Heers, Bret W. Tobalske, David Lentink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Avian takeoff requires peak pectoralis muscle power to generate sufficient aerodynamic force during the downstroke. Subsequently, the much smaller supracoracoideus recovers the wing during the upstroke. How the pectoralis work loop is tuned to power flight is unclear. We integrate wingbeat-resolved muscle, kinematic, and aerodynamic recordings in vivo with a new mathematical model to disentangle how the pectoralis muscle overcomes wing inertia and generates aerodynamic force during takeoff in doves. Doves reduce the angle of attack of their wing mid-downstroke to efficiently generate aerodynamic force, resulting in an aerodynamic power dip, that allows transferring excess pectoralis power into tensioning the supracoracoideus tendon to assist the upstroke— improving the pectoralis work loop efficiency simultaneously. Integrating extant bird data, our model shows how the pectoralis of birds with faster wingtip speed need to generate proportionally more power. Finally, birds with disproportionally larger wing inertia need to activate the pectoralis earlier to tune their downstroke.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberRP89968
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • aerodynamic force
  • animal locomotion
  • ecology
  • flight
  • muscle
  • wing kinematics
  • work loop
  • Muscles
  • Flight, Animal/physiology
  • Wings, Animal/physiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Models, Biological
  • Columbidae


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