Send to

Choose Destination
Physiol Biochem Zool. 2014 Sep-Oct;87(5):752-61. doi: 10.1086/677922. Epub 2014 Aug 25.

Differences in muscle fiber size and associated energetic costs in phylogenetically paired tropical and temperate birds.

Author information

Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology, Ohio State University, 318 West 12th Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210.


Tropical and temperate birds provide a unique system to examine mechanistic consequences of life-history trade-offs at opposing ends of the pace-of-life spectrum; tropical birds tend to have a slow pace of life whereas temperate birds the opposite. Birds in the tropics have a lower whole-animal basal metabolic rate and peak metabolic rate, lower rates of reproduction, and longer survival than birds in temperate regions. Although skeletal muscle has a relatively low tissue-specific metabolism at rest, it makes up the largest fraction of body mass and therefore contributes more to basal metabolism than any other tissue. A principal property of muscle cells that influences their rate of metabolism is fiber size. The optimal fiber size hypothesis attempts to link whole-animal basal metabolic rate to the cost of maintaining muscle mass by stating that larger fibers may be metabolically cheaper to maintain since the surface area∶volume ratio (SA∶V) is reduced compared with smaller fibers and thus the amount of area to transport ions is also reduced. Because tropical birds have a reduced whole-organism metabolism, we hypothesized that they would have larger muscle fibers than temperate birds, given that larger muscle fibers have reduced energy demand from membrane Na(+)-K(+) pumps. Alternatively, smaller muscle fibers could result in a lower capacity for shivering and exercise. To test this idea, we examined muscle fiber size and Na(+)-K(+)-ATPase activity in 16 phylogenetically paired species of tropical and temperate birds. We found that 3 of the 16 paired comparisons indicated that tropical birds had significantly larger fibers, contrary to our hypothesis. Our data show that SA∶V is proportional to Na(+)-K(+)-ATPase activity in muscles of birds.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for University of Chicago Press
Loading ...
Support Center