Although there is an extensive body of information on the kinematics of the fast start response in teleosts, there is little information on the deformation of the skeletal muscle which produces the changes in body position during a fast start. This study presents preliminary information on the determination of skeletal muscle deformation with implanted ultrasonic dimension gauges in the intact fish during startle behavior. Deformation was measured in the lateral epaxial musculature of the rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss during stage one of fast starts. The results show that ultrasound transit time dimension gauges can be implanted in the skeletal muscle of rainbow trout with minimum trauma and used to record local deformation along the length of the fish. Measurements remained stable over 4–8 h of implantation. Preliminary results show that: (1) muscle at different positions along the fish reaches its minimum length (average 9.6% shortening) at approximately the same time and coincident with the end of stage one of the fast start response; (2) the onset of concave curvature of the entire fish precedes the onset of local shortening at more caudal sites; (3) muscle on the convex side of a bend lengthens while muscle on the concave side shortens, and the two deformations follow a similar time course. These results indicate an asynchronous onset of skeletal muscle contraction in fast starts and support the hypothesis that local skeletal muscle deformation is transmitted caudally through skeletal or other structures.

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