Many insects overcome the issue of limited space for muscle growth by developing "bow" muscle-tendon systems. In this system, a muscle contracts against a lock, building up energy, and then releases it all at once. This mechanism is similar to how a grasshopper jumps or how crossbows function

However, I want my skeletons to be entities in the shape of a human skeleton with these types of insect muscles inside.

Can it scale up thus creating a skeleton looking animal that can move normally or lock it's muscles and snap like a bow? like to jump, jab, throw things...in an explosive manner?

  • $\begingroup$ I guess it's always about the law of cube... but at the same time "human" skeletons are tall but also very light.... $\endgroup$
    – Xenophile
    Commented May 17 at 20:48

1 Answer 1


The mechanism the OP describes is a way to overcome the limited speed of muscles. It is not a way to work around the strength limitations of muscles. You can't make a spring or an elastic exert more force than you can put into it with whatever is compressing or stretching it.

Insects can get away with these sorts of snap-joints. Due to the square-cube law, it requires relatively little force to move an insect, and it is easy for their structures to be strong enough. With larger animals, such a rapid release of force would become more likely to break a bone or tear a ligament, a condition that is typically highly disadvantageous.

However, humans do have locking joints. Consider our knees: they are evolved to remain straight easily, by slightly over-straightening, so that when our weight is on a straight leg, it locks slightly. It takes more muscular effort to bend a load-bearing human leg than it does to bend one that is suspended off the ground. It is also slower to bend a load-bearing human leg.

Martial artists, whether they parctise unarmed martial arts or armed, whether it is karate, boxing or fencing, all fight with knees bent to a greater or lesser degree. This is because it takes time to overcome the knee lock, and fighting with straight legs is slower. When fighting, every fraction of a second counts.

Humans have already evolved to be faster than other apes. The other apes, despite not having significantly more muscle, are stronger because their lever ratios favour strength over speed. They run faster because they use a quadrupedal gait to our bipedal gait. However, match a human against a chimp or a gorilla in an equal contest of speed over strength, and the human will likely win.

So, these sort of snap-joints are best kept where they're found: in small, light animals such as insects, not large mammals like humans.


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