Myoglobins from rat, coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), buffalo sculpin (Enophrys bison) hearts, and yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) red skeletal muscle were partially purified and their O2 binding affinities determined. Commercially prepared sperm whale myoglobin was employed as an internal standard. Tested at 20 degrees C, myoglobins from salmon and sculpin bound O2 with lower affinity than myoglobins from the rat or sperm whale. Oxygen binding studies at 12 degrees C and 37 degrees C suggest that this difference is adaptive, permitting myoglobins from cold-adapted fish to function at physiologically relevant temperatures. Taken together, purification and O2 binding data obtained in this study reveal a previously unrecognized diversity of myoglobin structure and function.