Thermal Sensitivity of Swimming Performance and Muscle Contraction in Northern and Southern Populations of Tree Frogs (Hyla Crucifer)

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The effects of temperature on sprint swimming ability and muscle contractile properties were examined in northern and southern populations of the holarctic tree frog, Hyla crucifer Wied-Neuwied, acclimated to 20–23°C. Maximal swimming velocities of 29 (southern) and 32 (northern) cms−1 and stroke frequencies of 4.1 (southern) and 5.5 (northern) strokes s-1 were attained at 30°C, and maximal stroke lengths (i.e. distance moved per stroke) of 8.0 (southern) and 7.4 (northern) cm at 20°C. The thermal dependence of swimming velocity decreases with increasing temperature (e.g. Q10 = 4.0 from 6 to 10°C, 1.2 from 20 to 30°C), as reported for locomotion in other ectothermic vertebrates. Over a temperature range of l.5-30°C, velocity increases by a factor of 5.5, frequency by a factor of 4, and length by a factor of 1.7. Thus, increased velocity at higher temperatures can be attributed mostly to increased stroke frequency; increments in stroke length contribute less. Muscle contractile properties have similar thermal dependencies to those of other vertebrates: rate processes [including twitch time-to-peak tension (TPT), twitch half-relaxation time (RT½), maximal rate of tetanic tension development and isotonic shortening velocity] are much more sensitive to temperature than is force generation (twitch and tetanic tension). Below 8°C, stroke frequency is limited by twitch contraction time (TPT + RT½), and leg extension in a swimming stroke by TPT. At higher temperatures, the thermal dependence of stroke time is lower than that of contraction time. Neither locomotor nor muscle contractile properties are different between the two populations (except for twitch tension at low temperatures). Inflexibility in the thermal dependence of muscle contraction and locomotion in this species may help to explain differences in breeding phenologies between northern and southern populations.


© 1989 by Company of Biologists

Recommended Citation

John-Alder, Henry B., M. Christopher Barnhart, and Albert F. Bennett. "Thermal sensitivity of swimming performance and muscle contraction in northern and southern populations of tree frogs (Hyla crucifer)." Journal of Experimental Biology 142, no. 1 (1989): 357-372.