Male and female syringeal muscles exhibit superfast shortening velocities in zebra finches

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Vocalisations play a key role in the communication behaviour of many vertebrates. Vocal production requires extremely precise motor control, which is executed by superfast vocal muscles that can operate at cycle frequencies over 100 Hz and up to 250 Hz. The mechanical performance of these muscles has been quantified with isometric performance and the workloop technique, but owing to methodological limitations we lack a key muscle property characterising muscle performance, the force–velocity relationship. Here, we quantified the force–velocity relationship in zebra finch superfast syringeal muscles using the isovelocity technique and tested whether the maximal shortening velocity is different between males and females. We show that syringeal muscles exhibit high maximal shortening velocities of 25L0 s−1 at 30°C. Using Q10-based extrapolation, we estimate they can reach 37–42L0 s−1 on average at body temperature, exceeding other vocal and non-avian skeletal muscles. The increased speed does not adequately compensate for reduced force, which results in low power output. This further highlights the importance of high-frequency operation in these muscles. Furthermore, we show that isometric properties positively correlate with maximal shortening velocities. Although male and female muscles differ in isometric force development rates, maximal shortening velocity is not sex dependent. We also show that cyclical methods to measure force–length properties used in laryngeal studies give the same result as conventional stepwise methodologies, suggesting either approach is appropriate. We argue that vocal behaviour may be affected by the high thermal dependence of superfast vocal muscle performance.
Artikelnummer jeb246330
TidsskriftJournal of Experimental Biology
Udgave nummer7
StatusUdgivet - 8. apr. 2024


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