The shortening velocities of single, skinned, fast and slow skeletal muscle fibers were measured at 5-6 degrees C in five animal species having a 25,000-fold range of body size (mouse, rat, rabbit, sheep, and cow). While fiber diameter and isometric force showed no dependence on animal body size, maximum shortening velocity in both fast and slow fibers and maximum power output in fast fibers were found to vary with the -1/8 power of body size. Maximum power output in slow fibers showed a slightly greater (-1/5 power) dependence on body size. The isometric force produced by the fibers was correlated (r = 0.74) inversely with fiber diameter. For all sizes of animal the average maximum velocity was 1.7 times faster in fast fibers than in slow fibers. The large difference in mechanical properties found between fibers from large and small animals suggests that properties of the contractile proteins vary in a systematic manner with the body size. These size-dependent changes can be used to study the correlations of structure and function of these proteins. Experimental results also suggest that the different metabolic rates observed in different sizes of animals could be accounted for, at least in part, by the difference in the properties of the contractile proteins.

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