Aquatic neotenic and terrestrial metamorphosed salamanders {Ambystoma tigrinum) were videotaped simultaneously with electromyographic (EMG) recording from five epaxial myotomes along the animal's trunk during swimming in a flow tank and trotting on a treadmill to investigate axial function during aquatic and terrestrial locomotion. Neotenic and metamorphosed individuals swim using very similar axial wave patterns, despite significant differences in axial morphology. During swimming, both forms exhibit traveling waves of axial flexion and muscle activity, with an increasing EMG-mechanical delay as these waves travel down the trunk. In contrast to swimming, during trotting metamorphosed individuals exhibit a standing wave of axial flexion produced by synchronous activation of ipsilateral epaxial myotomes along the trunk. Thus, metamorphosed individuals employ two distinct axial motor programs -- one used during swimming and one used during trotting. The transition from a traveling axial wave during swimming to a standing axial wave during trotting in A. tigrinum may be an appropriate analogy for similar transitions in axial locomotor function during theoriginal evolution of terrestriality in early tetrapods.

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