The whistle and the rattle: the design of sound producing muscles. Academic Article uri icon


  • Vertebrate sound producing muscles often operate at frequencies exceeding 100 Hz, making them the fastest vertebrate muscles. Like other vertebrate muscle, these sonic muscles are "synchronous," necessitating that calcium be released and resequestered by the sarcoplasmic reticulum during each contraction cycle. Thus to operate at such high frequencies, vertebrate sonic muscles require extreme adaptations. We have found that to generate the "boatwhistle" mating call (approximately 200 Hz), the swimbladder muscle fibers of toadfish have evolved (i) a large and very fast calcium transient, (ii) a fast crossbridge detachment rate, and (iii) probably a fast kinetic off-rate of Ca2+ from troponin. The fibers of the shaker muscle of rattlesnakes have independently evolved similar traits, permitting tail rattling at approximately 90 Hz.

publication date

  • July 23, 1996