The influence of temperature on muscle function in the fast swimming scup. I. Shortening velocity and muscle recruitment during swimming. Academic Article uri icon


  • In this study, electromyography showed that scup can swim to a maximum speed of 80 cm s-1 with their red muscle whereas previous results showed that carp can swim to only 45 cm s-1. Our aim was to evaluate the adaptations that enable scup to swim nearly twice as fast as carp. Although we anticipated that, at their respective maximum speeds, the red muscle of scup would be shortening at twice the velocity (V) of carp muscle, we found that the values of V were the same (2.04 muscle lengths s-1). At any given swimming speed, V was higher in carp than in scup because carp had a larger sarcomere length excursion and higher tail-beat frequency. The smaller sarcomere excursion in scup is primarily associated with using a less undulatory style of swimming (i.e. with a smaller backbone curvature). This less undulatory style of swimming may be an important adaptation that not only reduces V but may also reduce drag. At their respective maximum speeds, however, the 28% lower sarcomere length excursion in scup is balanced by a 26% higher tail-beat frequency, giving an equal V to that of carp. Although the scup in this study were somewhat longer than the carp in the previous one (19.7 vs 13.4 cm), we believe that many of the observed differences are species-related rather than size-related. We also found that scup swam in a kinematically similar fashion at 10 degrees C and 20 degrees C. However, at 10 degrees C, the scup could swim to only 54 cm s-1 before recruiting their white muscle whereas, at 20 degrees C, they could swim to 80 cm s-1. The difference in speed of initial white muscle recruitment, as well as information on muscle mechanics, suggests that the scup compress their recruitment order into a narrow speed range at low temperatures, thereby recruiting more muscle fibres. Quantitative analysis of red muscle electromyograms in this paper supports this hypothesis.

publication date

  • February 1992