Turtles with a complete transection of the spinal cord just posterior to the forelimb enlargement at the D2-D3 segmental border produced coordinated rhythmic hindlimb movements. Ipsilateral stimulation of cutaneous afferents in the midbody shell bridge evoked a rostral scratch. Electrical stimulation of the contralateral dorsolateral funiculus (DLF) at the anterior cut face of the D3 segment activated a forward swim. Simultaneous stimulation of the ipsilateral shell bridge and the contralateral DLF elicited a scratch-swim hybrid: a behavior that blended features of both rostral scratch and forward swim into each cycle of rhythmic movement. This is the first demonstration of a scratch-locomotion hybrid in a spinal vertebrate. The rostral scratch and the forward swim shared some characteristics: alternating hip flexion and extension, similar timing of knee extensor activity within the hip cycle, and a behavioral event during which force was exerted against a substrate. During each cycle, each behavior exhibited three sequential stages, preevent, event, and postevent. The rostral scratch event was a rub of the foot against the stimulated shell site. The forward swim event was a powerstroke, a hip extension movement with the foot held in a vertical position with toes and webbing spread. The two behaviors differed with respect to several features: amount of hip flexion and extension, electromyogram (EMG) amplitudes, and EMG duty cycles. Scratch-swim hybrids displayed two events, the scratch rub and the swim powerstroke, within each cycle. Hybrid hip flexion excursion, knee extensor EMGs, and hip flexor EMGs were similar to those of the scratch; hybrid hip extension excursion and hip extensor EMGs were similar to those of the swim. The hybrid also had three sequential stages during each cycle: 1) a combined scratch prerub and swim postpowerstroke, 2) a scratch rub that also served as a swim prepowerstroke, and 3) a swim powerstroke that also served as a scratch postrub. Merging of the rostral scratch with the forward swim was possible because of similarities between the sequential stages of the two forms, making them biomechanically compatible for hybrid formation. Kinematic and myographic similarities between the rostral scratch and the forward swim support the hypothesis that the two behaviors share common neural circuitry. The common features of the sequential stages of each behavior and the production of scratch-swim hybrids provide additional support for the hypothesis of a shared core of spinal cord neurons common to both rostral scratch and forward swim.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-165
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000


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