Contractile properties of the fast-twitch glycolytic (FG) portion of the iliofibularis muscle and sprint running performance were studied at approximately 5 degrees C intervals from 15-44 degrees C in the lizard Dipsosaurus dorsalis. Maximal running velocity (VR) and stride frequency (f) were both greatest when body temperature (Tb) was 40 degrees C, the field-active Tb in Dipsosaurus. At 40 degrees C VR was 4.3 +/- 0.2 m/s and f was 13.5 +/- 0.5 s-1. Between 25 and 40 degrees C, the thermal dependencies of VR and f were approximately constant (Q10's of 1.31 and 1.36 got VR and f, respectively). Below 25 degrees C performance declined more markedly with decreasing temperature. At 20 degrees C strides were qualitatively normal, but VR was only half of the value at 25 degrees C. At 15 degrees C the lizards were substantially incapacitated, and VR was 10% of the value at 20 degrees C. Stride length was approximately 0.33 m and changed very little with Tb from 20-44 degrees C. The time dependent contractile properties of FG muscle were affected more by temperature than was sprint performance. The maximal velocity of shortening at zero load (VO) was 18.7 0/s at 40 degrees C and had a Q10 of 1.7 from 25-40 degrees C. Maximal power output (Wmax) determined from the force-velocity curve was 464 W/kg at 40 degrees C. Below 40 degrees C max varied with temperature with a Q10 of 2-3. The shape of the force-velocity curve changed little with temperature (Wmax/POVO = 0.11). Between 25 and 40 degrees C a relatively temperature-independent process must modulate the effects of temperature on the contractile properties of the muscles that supply the power for burst locomotion. Storage and recovery of elastic energy appears to be a likely candidate for such a process. Below 25 degrees C, however, the contraction time is prolonged to such an extent that the f attainable is limited by the minimum time taken to contract and relax the muscles.