The whistle and the rattle: The design of sound producing muscles

Lawrence C. Rome, Douglas A. Syme, Stephen Hollingworth, Stan L. Lindstedt, Stephen M. Baylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

205 Scopus citations


Vertebrate sound producing muscles often operate at frequencies exceeding 100 Hz, making them the fastest vertebrate muscles. Like other vertebrate muscle, these sonic muscles are 'synchronous,' necessitating that calcium be released and resequestered by the sarcoplasmic reticulum during each contraction cycle. Thus to operate at such high frequencies, vertebrate sonic muscles require extreme adaptations. We have found that to generate the 'boatwhistle' mating call (≃200 Hz), the swimbladder muscle fibers of toadfish have evolved (i) a large and very fast calcium transient, (ii) a fast crossbridge detachment rate, and (iii) probably a fast kinetic off-rate of Ca2+ from troponin. The fibers of the shaker muscle of rattlesnakes have independently evolved similar traits, permitting tail rattling at ≃90 Hz.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8095-8100
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - Jul 23 1996


  • calcium
  • muscle mechanics
  • rattlesnake
  • swimbladder
  • toadfish
  • transients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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