The physiological properties of vertebrate skeletal muscle typically show a scaling pattern of slower contractile properties with size. In fishes, the myotomal or swimming muscle reportedly follows this pattern, showing slower muscle activation, relaxation and maximum shortening velocity (Vmax) with an increase in body size. We asked if the muscles involved in suction feeding by fishes would follow the same pattern. We hypothesized that feeding muscles in fishes that feed on evasive prey are under selection to maintain high power output and therefore would not show slower contractile properties with size. To test this, we compared contractile properties in feeding muscles (epaxial and sternohyoideus) and swimming muscle (myotomal) for two members of the family Centrarchidae (sunfish): the bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) and the largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). Consistent with our predictions, the Vmax of myotomal muscle in both species slowed with size, while the epaxials showed no significant change in Vmax with size. In the sternohyoideus, Vmax slowed with size in the bluegill but increased with size in the bass. The results indicate that scaling patterns of contractile properties appear to be more closely tied to muscle function (i.e. locomotion versus feeding) than overall patterns of size
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