In a previous study, it was shown that at a given speed the larvae of a species of freshwater fish, the Danube bleak Chalcalburnus chalcoides, expended considerably more metabolic energy at 15 degreesC than at 20 degreesC. We applied hydromechanical arguments to our previous data in order to determine whether the higher cost of swimming at the lower temperature might be due to the effects of viscous forces. However, even under the unrealistic assumption of the larvae swimming in the viscous regime at Reynolds numbers as high as 2000, we show here that hydromechanical forces cannot explain the high energy cost of swimming at 15 degreesC. Instead, we offer a new hypothesis that the 'two-gear system' of the swimming muscles operating in juvenile and adult fish is not yet functional in the larvae, with the consequence that, when these fish are swimming at high speeds in cold water, the muscle fibres have to operate over an increasingly inefficient range of shortening velocities.

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