Author(s): Bernal D, Donley JM, McGillivray DG, Aalbers SA, Syme DA,
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Abstract Through convergent evolution tunas and lamnid sharks share thunniform swimming and a medial position of the red, aerobic swimming musculature. During continuous cruise swimming these muscles move uniformly out of phase with local body curvature and the surrounding white muscle tissue. This design results in thrust production primarily from the caudal fin rather than causing whole-body undulations. The common thresher shark (Family Alopiidae) is the only other fish known to share the same medial red muscle anatomy as the thunniform swimmers. However, the overall body shape and extremely heterocercal caudal fin of the common thresher is not shared with the thunniform swimmers, which have both fusiform bodies and high aspect-ratio, lunate caudal fins. Our study used sonomicrometry to measure the dynamics of red and white muscle movement in common thresher sharks swimming in the ocean to test whether the medial position of red muscle is associated with uncoupling of muscle shortening and local body bending as characteristic of thunniform swimmers. Common threshers ( approximately 60-100kg) instrumented with sonomicrometric and electromyographic (EMG) leads swam alongside of the vessel with a tail-beat frequency of approximately 0.5Hz. EMG signals confirmed that only the red muscle was active during sustained swimming. Despite the more medial position of the red muscle relative to the white muscle, its strain was approximately 1.5-times greater than that of the overlying white muscle, and there was a notable phase shift between strain trajectories in the red muscle and adjacent white muscle. These results suggest an uncoupling (shearing) of the red muscle from the adjacent white muscle. Although the magnitude of the phase shift between red and white muscle strain was relatively constant within individuals, it varied among sharks, ranging from near zero (red and white in phase) to almost 180 degrees out of phase. This extent in variability has not been documented previously for thunniform swimmers with a medial red muscle position and may be a characteristic of the thresher's unique body and caudal fin morphology. Nonetheless, the uncoupling of red and white muscle strain remains a consistent character associated with fishes having a medially positioned red muscle.
This article was published in Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol
and referenced in Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals