We present the first analysis of scaling effects on the motor pattern of a feeding vertebrate. Data are presented for the effects of body size on the pattern of activity in four head muscles during prey capture in the largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides. Electromyographic (EMG) recordings were made from three expansive-phase muscles (the epaxialis, the sternohyoideus and the levator arcus palatini) and one compressive-phase muscle (the adductor mandibulae), during the capture of small fish prey. Recordings were made of 181 prey-capture events from 19 bass that ranged in size from 83 to 289 mm standard length. We measured seven variables from the myogram of each capture to quantify the temporal pattern of muscle activation, including the duration of activity in each muscle and the onset time of each muscle, relative to the onset of the sternohyoideus muscle. Regressions of the mean value of each variable for the 19 individuals on standard length revealed that only the onset time of the adductor mandibulae changed with fish body size. The increase in onset time of the adductor muscle appears to reflect the longer time taken to open the mouth fully in larger fish. Other research shows that the kinematics of the strike in this species slows significantly with increasing body size. The combined results indicate that the duration of the EMG signal is not directly correlated with the duration of force production in muscles when compared between fish of different sizes. The lack of scaling of burst duration variables suggests that the reduced speeds of prey-capture motion are explained not by changes in the envelope of muscle activity, but rather by the effects of scale on muscle contractile kinetics. These scaling effects may include changes in the relative resistance of the jaw and head structures to movement through water and changes in the intrinsic contractile properties of the muscles of the feeding apparatus.

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