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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2006 Jan-Feb;79(1):20-30. Epub 2005 Nov 11.

The ontogeny of contractile performance and metabolic capacity in a high-frequency muscle.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Louisiana, Lafayette, LA, 70504-2451, USA. bradmoon@louisiana.edu


High-performance muscles such as the shaker muscles in the tails of western diamond-backed rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox) are excellent systems for studying the relationship between contractile performance and metabolic capacity. We observed that shaker muscle contraction frequency increases dramatically with growth in small individuals but then declines gradually in large individuals. We tested whether metabolic capacity changed with performance, using shaker muscle contraction frequency as an indicator of performance and maximal activities of citrate synthase and lactate dehydrogenase as indicators of aerobic and anaerobic capacities, respectively. Contraction frequency increased 20-fold in 20-100-g individuals but then declined by approximately 30% in individuals approaching 1,000 g. Mass-independent aerobic capacity was positively correlated with contractile performance, whereas mass-independent anaerobic capacity was slightly but negatively correlated with performance; body mass was not correlated with performance. Rattle mass increased faster than the ability to generate force. Early in ontogeny, shaker muscle performance appears to be limited by aerobic capacity, but later performance becomes limited equally by aerobic capacity and the mechanical constraint of moving a larger mass without proportionally thicker muscles. This high-performance muscle appears to shift during ontogeny from a metabolic constraint to combined metabolic and mechanical constraints.

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