The amphibian opercularis muscle connects a movable otic element (the operculum) to the pectoral girdle and can act in reception of ground vibrations. Various physiological parameters of the opercularis muscle of the bullfrog Rana catesbeiana were measured and compared with similar measurements on the iliofibularis muscle of the hindlimb. The opercularis muscle is a very slowly contracting muscle, with a Vmax of 1.81 muscle lengths s-1 compared to a Vmax of 6.24 muscle lengths s-1 for the iliofibularis muscle. The opercularis muscle develops tension slowly, taking about 10 s to attain maximum isometric tension when stimulated at 100 Hz. The muscle can retain high levels of tension for several minutes, and following stimulation has a time to half-relaxation of about 4–6 s. The slow velocity of contraction, slow rate of tension development, fatigue-resistance and slow rate of relaxation of the opercularis muscle support morphological evidence that it consists mostly of tonic muscle fibres. Experiments were also made to examine the effects of muscle tension on reception of ground vibrations as measured by inner ear microphonics. Severing the nerve supplying the opercularis muscle produced slight decreases of no more than 2 dB in responses to vibrations from 25 to 200 Hz. Artificial stimulation of the opercularis muscle after severing the nerve supplying the muscle increased responses to vibration across the entire frequency range. Higher tension levels produced greater increases in responses; at the highest tensions used (about 120 kN m-2) responses were increased by as much as 4.5 dB. The opercularis muscle is therefore specialized for slow but prolonged contractions, and tension is important in its sensory function. A tensed opercularis muscle appears to transmit faithfully motion of the forelimb, produced by vibrations, to the operculum such that the latter moves relative to the inner ear fluids.

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