Ventricle strips from little skate (Raja erinacea), spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias), black dogfish (Etmopterus spinax), sea raven (Hemitripterus americanus), cod (Gadus morhua), hagfish (Myxine glutinosa) and white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) were mounted for isometric force recording. Force development was assessed as a function of external calcium concentration and frequency of contraction. Post-rest potentiation was determined in skate and the teleost species to assess indirectly calcium storage capacities. Sea raven and cod preparations were also treated with ryanodine to assess the importance of calcium release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum.

Ventricle strips from skate and black dogfish showed a five-fold increase in force development when external calcium was raised from a physiological to a saturating level. Force development by ventricle strips from other species tested increased by only about 50% over the same range of calcium concentration.

For all elasmobranchs tested, an elevation in frequency of contraction of ventricle strips resulted first in an increase and subsequently in a decrease in force development. The apices of the curves were well within the physiological range of heart rates exhibited by these species. Preparations from teleosts showed only a decrease in force development when contraction frequency was elevated.

Skate ventricle strips exhibited a very marked post-rest potentiation at 3mmoll−1 external calcium. This protocol is considered to reflect the importance of intracellular calcium stores in the beat-to-beat maintenance of contractility. Sea raven and cod ventricle strips did not show any major post-rest potentiation, suggesting that calcium storage in hearts of these species is minimal. Ryanodine treatment had no effect upon sea raven and cod heart preparations. This approach further implies that calcium release from sarcoplasmic reticulum is not critical in these species.

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