Convergent evolution in mechanical design of lamnid sharks and tunas

Nature. 2004 May 6;429(6987):61-5. doi: 10.1038/nature02435.


The evolution of 'thunniform' body shapes in several different groups of vertebrates, including whales, ichthyosaurs and several species of large pelagic fishes supports the view that physical and hydromechanical demands provided important selection pressures to optimize body design for locomotion during vertebrate evolution. Recognition of morphological similarities between lamnid sharks (the most well known being the great white and the mako) and tunas has led to a general expectation that they also have converged in their functional design; however, no quantitative data exist on the mechanical performance of the locomotor system in lamnid sharks. Here we examine the swimming kinematics, in vivo muscle dynamics and functional morphology of the force-transmission system in a lamnid shark, and show that the evolutionary convergence in body shape and mechanical design between the distantly related lamnids and tunas is much more than skin deep; it extends to the depths of the myotendinous architecture and the mechanical basis for propulsive movements. We demonstrate that not only have lamnids and tunas converged to a much greater extent than previously known, but they have also developed morphological and functional adaptations in their locomotor systems that are unlike virtually all other fishes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Body Constitution
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Sharks / anatomy & histology*
  • Sharks / physiology*
  • Swimming / physiology*
  • Tuna / anatomy & histology*
  • Tuna / physiology*