The sonic muscle of the oyster toadfish, Opsanus tau, can produce unfused contractions at 300 Hz. Electron microscopy shows a great abundance of the Sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) in this muscle, but no functional characterization of the capabilities of the SR has been reported. We measured the oxalate-supported Ca2+ uptake rate and capacities of homogenates of toadfish sonic muscle and rat extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscle, and estimated the number of pump units by titration with thapsigargin, a high-affinity, specific inhibitor of the SR Ca-ATPase. The Ca2+ uptake rate averaged 70.9 +/- 9.5 mumol min -1 per g tissue for the toad fish sonic muscle, and 73.5 +/- 3.7 mumol min -1 g-1 for rat EDL. The capacity for Ca2+ -oxalate uptake was 161 +/- 20 mumol g -1 and 33 +/- 2 mumol g -1 for toadfish sonic muscle and rat EDL, respectively. Thus, the rates of Ca2+ uptake were similar in the two muscles, but the toadfish sonic muscle had about five times the capacity of the rat EDL. The number of pumps as estimated by thapsigargin titration was 68 +/- 4 nmol of Ca-ATPase per g tissue in the toadfish, and 42 +/- 5 nmol Ca-ATPase per g tissue in the rat EDL. The turnover number, defined as the Ca2+ uptake divided by the number of pumps, was 1065 +/- 150 min -1 for toadfish and 1786 +/- 230 min -1 for rat EDL (p < 0.05) at 37 degrees C. The Ca2+ uptake rate of toadfish sonic muscle at 22 degree C, a typical temperature for calling toadfish, averaged 42 +/- 1% of its rate at 37 degree C. At these operating temperatures, the toadfish SR is likely to be slower than the rat fast-twitch SR, yet the toadfish sonic muscle supports more rapid contractions. One explanation for this is that the voluminous SR provides activator Ca2+ for contraction, but the abundant parvalbumin plays a major role in relaxation.