Douglas Syme

Douglas Syme

Contact information


Educational Background

B.S. Zoology, University of Guelph, 1987

Doctor of Philosophy Biological Sciences, University of California, 1993

M.S. Zoology, University of Guelph, 1989


Areas of Research


NOTE:  I am now retired and no longer supervising undergraduate summer/research students or graduate students

  • muscle physiology (whole muscle to subcellular)
  • animal locomotion
  • energetics of contraction and movement
  • comparative cardiovascular physiology 

My interests lie in comparative muscle physiology, animal locomotion, and comparative cardiovascular physiology.

Muscles come in many designs and are used in diverse fashions. Most vertebrates and many invertebrates possess different cell types within a single muscle, ranging from those that shorten very fast to very slow, and having varying degrees of fatigueability, preferred energy substrate, twitch speed, power output, etc. It is believed this blend allows a single muscle to perform in different ways depending on the task at hand. We study the mechanical performance of muscle, how designs at the cellular level translate into performance, and how the structures through which muscles transmit energy (e.g. tendons) impact the ability of muscles to do work and ultimately produce movement.

Current projects include:  how stretch of muscle impacts subsequent contractions, force production and work output; how various types of contractions impact the energy used by muscles and subsequently the efficiency of muscle contraction; how muscles are recruited during swimming in fish to produce thrust and control movement; the effects of temperature on muscle contraction and control of movement; modeling and empirical studies of the effects of tendon compliance on muscle performance.  

We have ongoing collaborative projects in areas of tuna and shark muscle physiology, swimming biomechanics and cardiovascular function in fishes with national and international collaborator


  • Memorable Professor, Science Ambassadors, University of Calgary. 2018
  • Faculty of Science Award for Excellence in Teaching, 2004


  • Changes in blue shark morphology with growth: outgrowing your fins to become more stable.. Scott Seamone; Douglas A Syme; Theresa McCaffrey; Natalie Tsao. (2018)
  • A strategy for effective predation on a large, dangerous predator, the Atlantic Bluefin tuna, Thunnis thynnus.. Scott Seamone; Meredith Shuffler; Douglas A Syme. (2018)
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction in aging neurons: the link between plasma membrane oxidation and excitability decline?. John Lee; Wic Wildering; Douglas A Syme; Keenan Boughton; Petra Hermann. (2018)
  • Blue shark morphology: youth are unstable, adults rocket but don’t roll.. Theresa McCaffrey; Douglas A Syme; Natalie Tsao; Scott Seamone. (2018)
  • Small with agility and large with stability: effects of growth on blue shark morphology.. Douglas A Syme; Natalie Tsao; Scott Seamone; Theresa McCaffrey. (2018)
  • Sink or swim: scalin effects on lifting forces in blue sharks (Prionace glauca). . Natalie Tsao; Scott Seamone; Theresa McCaffrey; Douglas A Syme. (2018)
  • How disc-shaped stingrays create sediment flow for effective burying. Douglas A Syme; Scott Seamone. (2018)
  • The D-Lightless effect of a vitamin: Dietary manipulation and dark exposure does not impair vitamin D homeostasis or muscle function.. Natalie Tsao; Douglas A Syme. (2019)
  • Contribution of muscle metabolism to aerobic scope in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss).. Theresa McCaffrey; Douglas A Syme. (2019)
  • Stingrays: locomotion on the floor of the ocean. (invited).. Scott Seamone; Douglas A Syme. (2018)
  • Scaling morphology in Blue Sharks (Prionace glauca): The fight against gravity!. Scott Seamone; Natalie Tsao; Theresa McCaffrey; Douglas A Syme. (2018)

More Information

More Publications

Google Scholar Link

  • Roberts JC, Syme DA. (2017) Effects of epinephrine exposure on contractile performance of compact and spongy myocardium from rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) during hypoxia.  Fish Physiol Biochem.  epub ahead of print.  doi: 10.1007/s10695-017-0412-x. 
  • Robertson JW, Struthers CN, Syme DA (2018) Enhancement of muscle and locomotor performance by a series compliance: A mechanistic simulation study. PLoS ONE 13(1): e0191828.
  • Roberts, J. C., & Syme, D. A. 2016. Effects of Using Tricaine Methanesulfonate and Metomidate before Euthanasia on the Contractile Properties of Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) Myocardium. Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, 55(5):565- 569.
  • Kenneth J. Rodnick, A. Kurt Gamperl, Gordon W. Nash, Douglas A. Syme. 2014. Temperature and sex dependent effects on cardiac mitochondrial metabolism in Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L.). Journal of Thermal Biology. 44, 110–118.   DOI: 10.1016/j.jtherbio.2014.02.012
  • T.E. Higham, K.R. Lipsett, D.A. Syme, and A.P. Russell. 2013. Controlled Chaos: Three-Dimensional Kinematics, Fiber Histochemistry, and Muscle Contractile Dynamics of Autotomized Lizard Tails. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 86(6): 611-630.
  • D.A. Syme, A.K. Gamperl, G.W. Nash, and K.J. Rodnick. 2013. Increased ventricular stiffness and decreased cardiac function in Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) at high temperatures. Am. J. Physiol, Regul Comp Integ Physiol. 305(8), R864-876.
  • J.M. Donley, C.A. Sepulveda, S.A. Aalbers, D.G. McGillivray, D.A. Syme, D. Bernal. 2012. Effects of temperature on power and contraction kinetics of regionally endothermic locomotor muscle of the common thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus). Journal of Fish Physiology and Biochemistry. 38, 1507–1519.
  • Syme, D.A., and Shadwick, R.E. 2011. Red muscle function in stiff-bodied swimmers: There and almost back again.  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 366, 1507-1515.
  • D. Bernal, J.M. Donley, D.G. McGillivray, S.A. Aalbers, D.A. Syme, C. Sepulveda. 2010. Function of the medial red muscle during sustained swimming in common thresher sharks: Contrast and convergence with thunniform swimmers. Comp. Biochem. Physiol, Part A 155, 454–463.
  • Gollock, M.J., Hunter, K., Syme, D.A., Freeman, M.R., McKinley, S., Gamperl, A.K.  2009. Potential methods for measuring the activity patterns and energy use of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). Can. J. Fish. Aquatic Sci. 66(7), 1095-1106.
  • E.M. Dlugosz, M.A. Chappell, D.G. McGillivray, D.A. Syme, T. Garland, Jr. 2009. Locomotor trade-offs in mice selectively bred for high voluntary wheel running. J. Exp. Biol. 212, 2612-2618
  • D.G. McGillivray, T. Garland, Jr., E.M. Dlugosz, M.A. Chappell, and D.A. Syme. 2009. Changes in efficiency and myosin expression in the small-muscle phenotype of mice selectively bred for high voluntary running activity. J. Exp. Biol. 212, 977-985.
  • Shadwick, R.E. and Syme, D.A. 2008. Thunniform swimming: muscle dynamics and mechanical power production of aerobic fibres in yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares).  J. Exp. Biol. 211, 1603-1611.
  • Syme, D.A., Gollock, M., Freeman, M.J., Gamperl, A.. 2008. Power isn’t everything:  muscle function and energetic costs during steady swimming in Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). Physiol. Biochem. Zool. 81(3): 320–335.
  • Trinh, M. and Syme, D.A. 2007. Effects of stretch on work and efficiency of frog (Rana pipiens) muscle. J. Exp. Biol.  210, 2843-2850.
  • Donley, J.M., Shadwick, R.E., Sepulveda, C.A. and Syme, D.A. 2007.  Thermal dependence of contractile properties of the aerobic locomotor muscle in the leopard shark and shortfin mako shark. J. Exp. Biol. 210: 1194-1203.
  • Syme, D.A. 2006. Functional Properties of Skeletal Muscle. In Fish Physiology: Fish Biomechanics, vol 23. pp 179-240. Eds. R.E. Shadwick and G.V. Lauder, series Eds. D.J. Randall and A.P. Farrell. Academic Press, Elsevier.
  • Syme, D.A., A.K. Gamperl, M.H. Braun and D.R. Jones. 2006. Wave reflection effects in the central circulation of American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis): what the heart sees. Am. J. Physiol. Heart Circ. Physiol. 291: H1670-1678.
  • Bernal, D., J.M. Donley, R.E. Shadwick and D.A. Syme. 2005. Mammal-like muscles power swimming in a cold-water shark. Nature. 437: 1349-1352.
  • Syme, D.A., K. Evashuk, B. Grintuch, E.L. Rezende, and T. Garland, Jr. 2005. Contractile abilities of normal and “mini” triceps surae muscles from mice (Mus domesticus) selectively bred for high voluntary wheel running. J. Appl. Physiol. 99: 1308-1316.
  • Syme, D.A. and Tonks, D.M. 2004. Fatigue and recovery of dynamic and steady-state performance in frog skeletal muscle. Am J. Physiol. 286, R916-926.
  • Syme, D.A. and R.E. Shadwick. 2002. Effects of longitudinal body position and swimming speed on mechanical power of deep red muscle from skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis).  J. Exp. Biol. 205(2). 189-200.
  • Syme, D.A., A.K. Gamperl & D.R. Jones.  2002. Delayed depolarization of the cog-wheel valve and pulmonary-to-systemic shunting in alligators. J. Exp. Biol. 205: 1843-1851.
  • Syme, D.A. & M.J. Grattan. 2002. Effects of stretch on work from fast and slow muscles of mice: damped and undamped energy release. Can. J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 80: 887-900.
  • Wakeling, J. & D.A. Syme. 2002. Wave properties of action potentials from fast and slow motor units of rats.  Muscle Nerve. 26:659-668.
  • Katz, S.L., D.A. Syme & R.E. Shadwick. 2001. High-speed swimming: Enhanced power in yellowfin tuna.  Nature. 12 April, vol 410: 770-771.
  • Rome, L.C., C. Cook, D.A. Syme, M.A. Connaughton, M. Ashley-Ross, A. Klimov, B. Tikunov & Y.E. Goldman. 1999. Trading force for speed: why superfast cross-bridge kinetics leads to super low forces. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA. May 11, 96(10):5826-31.
  • Rome, L.C., D.A. Syme, S. Hollingworth, S.L. Lindstedt & S.H. Baylor. 1996, July 23. The whistle and the rattle: the design of sound producing muscles. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA. 93(15): 8095-8100.
  • Syme, D.A., & R.K. Josephson. 1995. Influence of muscle length on work from trabecular muscle of frog atrium and ventricle. J. Exp. Biol. 198: 2221-2227.
  • Johnson, T.P., D.A. Syme, B.C. Jayne, G.V. Lauder, & A.F. Bennett. 1994. Modeling red muscle power output during steady and unsteady swimming in largemouth bass. Am. J. Physiol. 267: R481-488.
  • Syme, D.A. 1994. The efficiency of frog ventricular muscle.  J. Exp. Biol. 197: 143-164.


  • Seamone, S. and D.A. Syme. 2015.  Muscle Structure and Mechanical Properties.  In  Fish Physiology: Physiology of Elasmobranch Fishes, vol 34A. pp 190-214. Eds.  R.E. Shadwick, A.P. Farrell, C.J. Brauner, series Eds A. P. Farrell, C. J. Brauner.
  • Syme, D.A. 2011. Functional Properties of Skeletal Muscle - Work Loops (article 217). In Encyclopedia of Fish Physiology. From Genome to Environment  Ed. R.E. Shadwick, series Ed. A.P. Farrell. Elsevier ISBN 13: 978-0-12-374545-3.
  • Syme, D.A. 2006. Functional Properties of Skeletal Muscle. In Fish Physiology: Fish Biomechanics, vol 23. pp 179-240. Eds. R.E. Shadwick and G.V. Lauder, series Eds. D.J. Randall and A.P. Farrell. Academic Press, Elsevier.