Skeletal muscle architecture of the rabbit hindlimb: Functional implications of muscle design

Richard L. Lieber*, Field T. Blevins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


The muscle‐fiber architecture of 29 muscles from six rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) was measured in order to describe the muscular properties of this cursorial animal, which possesses several specific skeletal adaptations. Several muscles were placed into one of four functional groups: hamstrings, quadriceps, dorsiflexors, or plantarflexors, for statistical comparison of properties between groups. Antagonistic groups (i.e., hamstrings vs. quadriceps or dorsiflexors vs. plantarflexors) demonstrated significant differences in fiber length, fiber length/muscle length ratio, muscle mass, pinnation angle, and number of sarcomeres in series (P<.02). Discriminant analysis permitted characterization of the “typical” muscle belonging to one of the four groups. The quadriceps were characterized by their large pinnation angles and low fiber length mass ratios, suggesting a design for force production. Conversely, the hamstrings, with small pinnation angles, appeared to be designed to permit large excursions. Similar differences were observed between plantarflexors and dorsiflexors, which have architectural features that suit them for force production and excursion respectively. Although these differences were not absolute, they represented clear morphological distinctions that have functional consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-101
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Developmental Biology


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