Escape responses (C-shaped fast-starts) were filmed at 500 frames s-1 in the Antarctic rock cod (Notothenia coriiceps) at 0 °C. The activation and strain patterns of the superficial fast myotomal muscle were measured simultaneously using electromyography and sonomicrometry respectively. In order to bend the body into the initial C-shape, the muscle fibres in the rostral myotomes (at 0.35L, where L is total length) shortened by up to 13 % of their resting length at a maximum velocity of 1.68 fibre lengths s-1. During the contralateral contraction, muscle fibres were stretched (by 5 % and 7 % at 0.35L and 0.65L, respectively) and were activated prior to the end of lengthening, before shortening by up to 12 % of resting fibre length (peak-to-peak strain). Representative strain records were digitised to create cyclical events corresponding to the C-bend and contralateral contraction. Isolated fibres were subjected to the abstracted strain cycles and stimulated at the same point and for the same duration as occurs in vivo. During the early phase of shortening, muscle shortening velocity (V) increased dramatically whilst the load was relatively constant and represented a substantial fraction of the maximum isometric stress. Pre-stretch of active muscle was associated with significant force enhancement. For the contralateral contraction, V exceeded that predicted by the steady-state force­velocity relationship for considerable periods during each tailbeat, contributing to relatively high maximum instantaneous power outputs of up to 290 W kg-1 wet muscle mass. In vitro experiments, involving adjusting strain, cycle duration and stimulation parameters, indicated that in vivo muscle fibres produce close to their maximum power. During escape responses, the maximum velocity and acceleration recorded from the centre of gravity of the fish were 0.71±0.03 m s-1 and 17.1±1.4 m s-2, respectively (mean ± s.e.m., N=7 fish). Muscle performance was sufficient to produce maximum velocities and accelerations that were within the lower end of the range reported for temperate-zone fish.

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