Squeaking with a sliding joint: Mechanics and motor control of sound production in palinurid lobsters

Journal Article

The origin of arthropod sound-producing morphology typically involves modification of two translating body surfaces, such as the legs and thorax. In an unusual structural rearrangement, I show that one lineage of palinurid lobsters lost an antennal joint articulation, which transformed this joint from moving with one degree of freedom into a sliding joint with multiple degrees of freedom. With this sliding joint, 'stick-and-slip' sounds are produced by rubbing the base of each antenna against the antennular plate. To understand the musculo-skeletal changes that occurred during the origin and evolutionary variation of this sound-producing mechanism, I examined joint morphology and antennal muscle anatomy across sound-producing and non-sound-producing palinurids. Plectrum movement and antennal muscle activity were measured in a sound-producing species, Panulirus argus. The promotor muscle pulls the plectrum over the file during sound-producing and non-sound-producing movements; a higher intensity of muscle activity is associated with sound production. The promotor muscle is larger and attaches more medially in sound-producing palinurids than in non-sound producers. In Panulirus argus, each shingle on the file has an additional ridge; in Palinurus elephas, the shingle surfaces are smooth. These differences in shingle surface features suggest variation in the stick-and-slip properties of the system. Translational motion permitted by the sliding joint is necessary for sound production; hence, the construction of a sliding joint is a key modification in the origin of this sound-producing mechanism.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Patek, SN

Published Date

  • 2002

Published In

  • Journal of Experimental Biology

Volume / Issue

  • 205 / 16

Start / End Page

  • 2375 - 2385