Distance and force production during jumping in wild-type and mutant Drosophila melanogaster

N Zumstein, O Forman, U Nongthomba, J C Sparrow, C J H Elliott

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In many insects renowned for their jumping ability, elastic storage is used so that high forces can be developed prior to jumping. We have combined physiological, behavioural and genetic approaches to test whether elastic energy storage makes a major contribution to jumping in Drosophila.

We describe a sensitive strain gauge setup, which measures the forces produced by tethered flies through their mesothoracic legs. The peak force produced by the main jumping muscle of female flies from a wild-type (Canton-S) strain is 101+/-4.4 muN [and this is indistinguishable from a second wild-type (Texas) strain]. The force takes 8.2 ms to reach its peak. The peak force is not affected significantly by altering the leg angle (femur-tibia joint angle) in the range of 75-120degrees, but the peak force declines as the leg is extended further.

Measurements of jumping ability (distance jumped) showed that female Drosophila (with their wings removed) of two wild-type strains, Canton-S and Texas, produced jumps of 28.6+/-0.7 and 30.2+/-1.0 mm (mean +/- S.E.M.). For a female wild-type Drosophila, a jump of 30 mm corresponds to a kinetic energy of 200 nJ on take-off (allowing 20% of the energy to overcome air resistance). We develop equations of motion for a linear force-time model of take-off and calculate that the time to take-off is 5.0 ms and the peak force should be 274 muN (137 muN leg(-1)).

We predicted, from the role of octopamine in enhancing muscle tension in several locust muscles, that if stored elastic energy plays no part in force development, then genetic manipulation of the octopaminergic system would directly affect force production and jumping in Drosophila. Using two mutants deficient in the octopaminergic system, Tbh(nM18) (M18) and TyrR(hono) (hono), we found significantly reduced jumping distances (20.7+/-0.7 and 20.7+/-0.4 mm, respectively) and force production (52% and 55%, respectively) compared with wild type.

From the reduced distance and force production in M18, a mutant deficient in octopamine synthesis, and in hono, a tyramine/octopamine receptor mutant, we conclude that in Drosophila, as in locusts, octopamine modulates escape jumping. We conclude that the fly does not need to store large quantities of elastic energy in order to make its jump because (1) the measured and calculated forces agree to within 40% and (2) the reduction in distances jumped by the mutants correlates well with their reduction in measured peak force.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3515-3522
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2004


  • Drosophila
  • jumping
  • tyramine
  • octopamine
  • tergal depressor of trochanter
  • tergotrochanteral muscle
  • M18
  • hono
  • biomechanics

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