Thermal Effects on Red Muscle Contractile Performance in Deep-Diving, Large-Bodied Fishes

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Bigeye thresher sharks (Alopias superciliosus) and swordfish (Xiphias gladius) are large, pelagic fishes, which make long-duration, diurnal foraging dives from warm, surface waters (18–24 °C) to cold waters beneath the thermocline (5–10 °C). In bigeye thresher sharks, the subcutaneous position of the red, aerobic swimming muscles (RM) suggests that RM temperature mirrors ambient during dives (i.e., ectothermy). In swordfish, the RM is closer to the vertebrae and its associated with vascular counter-current heat exchangers that maintain RM temperature above ambient (i.e., RM endothermy). Here, we sought to determine how exposure to a wide range of ambient temperatures (8, 16, 24 °C) impacted peak power output and optimum cycle (i.e., tailbeat) frequency (0.25, 0.5, 1 Hz) in RM isolated from both species. Bigeye thresher shark RM did not produce substantial power at high cycle frequencies, even at high temperatures; but it did produce relatively high power at slow cycle frequencies regardless of temperature. Swordfish RM produced more power when operating at a combination of fast cycle frequencies and higher temperatures. This suggests that swordfish RM benefits considerably more from warming than bigeye thresher shark RM, while the RM of both species was able to produce power at cold temperatures and slow cycle frequencies. Despite different thermal strategies (i.e., ectothermy vs. RM endothermy), the ability of the RM to power sustained swimming during foraging-related search behaviors may contribute to the unique ability of these fishes to successfully exploit food resources in deep, cold water.



PubMed ID