Tuna are endothermic fish with high metabolic rates, cardiac outputs and aerobic capacities. While tuna warm their skeletal muscle, viscera, brain and eyes, their hearts remain near ambient temperature, raising the possibility that cardiac performance may limit their thermal niches. We used an in situ perfused heart preparation to investigate the effects of acute temperature change and the effects of epinephrine and extracellular Ca(2+) on cardiac function in yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares). Heart rate showed a strong temperature-dependence, ranging from 20 beats min(-1) at 10 degrees C to 109 beats min(-1) at 25 degrees C. Maximal stroke volume showed an inverse temperature-dependence, ranging from 1.4 ml kg(-1) at 15 degrees C to 0.9 ml kg(-1) at 25 degrees C. Maximal cardiac outputs were 27 ml kg(-1) min(-1) at 10 degrees C and 98 ml kg(-1) min(-1) at 25 degrees C. There were no significant effects of perfusate epinephrine concentrations between 1 and 100 nmol l(-1) at 20 degrees C. Increasing extracellular Ca(2+) concentration from 1.84 to 7.36 mmol l(-1) at 20 degrees C produced significant increases in maximal stroke volume, cardiac output and myocardial power output. These data demonstrate that changes in heart rate and stroke volume are involved in maintaining cardiac output during temperature changes in tuna and support the hypothesis that cardiac performance may limit the thermal niches of yellowfin tuna.