Tunas have an extraordinary physiology including elevated metabolic rates and high cardiac performance. In some species, retention of metabolic heat warms the slow oxidative swimming muscles and visceral tissues. In all tunas, the heart functions at ambient temperature. Enhanced rates of calcium transport in tuna myocytes are associated with increased expression of proteins involved in the contraction-relaxation cycle. The cardiac SR Ca2+-ATPase (SERCA2) plays a major role during cardiac excitation-contraction (E-C) coupling. Measurements of oxalate-supported Ca2+-uptake in atrial SR vesicles isolated from four species of tunas indicate that bluefin have at least two fold higher Ca2+-uptake than all other tunas examined between 5 and 30 degrees C. The highest atrial Ca2+-uptake was measured in bluefin tuna at 30 degrees C (23.32+/-1.58 nmol Ca2+/mg/min). Differences among tunas in the temperature dependency of Ca2+-uptake were similar for ATP hydrolysis. Western blot analysis revealed a significant increase in SERCA2 content associated with higher Ca2+ uptake rates in the atrial tissues of bluefin tuna and similar RyR expression across species. We propose that the expression of EC coupling proteins in cardiac myocytes, and the higher rates of SERCA2 activity are an important evolutionary step for the maintenance of higher heart rates and endothermy in bluefin tuna.