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J Morphol. 2006 Apr;267(4):477-93.

Evolution of high-performance swimming in sharks: transformations of the musculotendinous system from subcarangiform to thunniform swimmers.

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Evolution, Bio-Geosphere Dynamics Program (EBID), Department of Zoology, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.


In contrast to all other sharks, lamnid sharks perform a specialized fast and continuous "thunniform" type of locomotion, more similar to that of tunas than to any other known shark or bony fish. Within sharks, it has evolved from a subcarangiform mode. Experimental data show that the two swimming modes in sharks differ remarkably in kinematic patterns as well as in muscle activation patterns, but the morphology of the underlying musculotendinous system (red muscles and myosepta) that drives continuous locomotion remains largely unknown. The goal of this study was to identify differences in the musculotendinous system of the two swimming types and to evaluate these differences in an evolutionary context. Three subcarangiform sharks (the velvet belly lantern shark, Etmopterus spinax, the smallspotted catshark, Scyliorhinus canicula, and the blackmouth catshark, Galeus melanostomus) from the two major clades (two galeans, one squalean) and one lamnid shark, the shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrhinchus, were compared with respect to 1) the 3D shape of myomeres and myosepta of different body positions; 2) the tendinous architecture (collagenous fiber pathways) of myosepta from different body positions; and 3) the association of red muscles with myoseptal tendons. Results show that the three subcarangiform sharks are morphologically similar but differ remarkably from the lamnid condition. Moreover, the "subcarangiform" morphology is similar to the condition known from teleostomes. Thus, major features of the "subcarangiform" condition in sharks have evolved early in gnathostome history: Myosepta have one main anterior-pointing cone and two posterior-pointing cones that project into the musculature. Within a single myoseptum cones are connected by longitudinally oriented tendons (the hypaxial and epaxial lateral and myorhabdoid tendons). Mediolaterally oriented tendons (epineural and epipleural tendons; mediolateral fibers) connect vertebral axis and skin. An individual lateral tendon spans only a short distance along the body (a fraction between 0.05 and 0.075 of total length, L, of the shark). This span is similar in all tendons along the body. Red muscles insert into the midregion of the lateral tendons. The shortfin mako differs substantially from this condition in several respects: Red muscles are internalized and separated from white muscles by a sheath of lubricative connective tissue. They insert into the anterior part of the hypaxial lateral tendon. Rostrocaudally, this tendon becomes very distinct and its span increases threefold (0.06L anteriorly to 0.19L posteriorly). Mediolateral fibers do not form distinct epineural/epipleural tendons in the mako. Since our morphological findings are in good accordance with experimental data it seems likely that the thunniform swimming mode has evolved along with the described morphological specializations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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