The aim of this study was to identify the principal factors that determine the time course of force and power output by muscle during patterns of stimulation and movement similar to those during fish swimming. Fully activated, white muscle fibres isolated from dogfish Scyliorhinus canicula were used to characterize the force-velocity relationship of the contractile component (CC) and the stress-strain relationship of the passive, elastic component (SEC) in series with the CC. A simple model of the time course of crossbridge activation during brief contractions was devised. Using the mechanical properties of the CC and SEC and the activation time course, force and power were predicted for brief contractions with constant-velocity movement and also for brief contractions starting at various times during sinusoidal movement. The predicted force and power were compared with observations for these patterns of stimulation and movement. The predictions matched the observations well for the period during stimulation. Matching of force was much less good for some specific conditions during relaxation, the period during which force persists after the end of stimulation. If either the slow rise of activation or the SEC was omitted from the calculation, the predictions were poor, even during stimulation. Additional factors which may influence force are discussed. These include the after-effects of shortening and stretch, the variation of force during constant-velocity stretch and non-uniform behaviour within the muscle.

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