Mechanically skinned muscle fibres from the twitch region of the iliofibularis muscle of cool- (16 +/- 1 degree C) and warm- (32 +/- 1 degree C) acclimated cane toads (Bufo marinus) were activated maximally by Ca2+ in solutions of different pH and at different temperatures (approx. 1-35 degrees C). Acclimation of up to 12 weeks at 16 degrees C and up to 8 weeks at 32 degrees C did not modify the marked thermal dependence of isometric force in the skeletal muscle fibres of the cane toad. The prominent decline of maximum Ca2+-activated force at lower temperatures, a property which is not characteristic of muscles from other anurans, was associated with an obvious decline in fibre stiffness at temperatures below about 20 degrees C, regardless of the temperatures at which the toads were kept prior to experimentation. The results suggest that the decline of isometric force at lower temperatures is due both to a reduction in the number of cross-bridges and to a decrease in the force output per cross-bridge. The maximum Ca2+-activated force response increased when fibres were activated in solutions of increasing pH at all temperatures investigated. This trend is expected to have a compensatory effect on the thermal dependence of the maximum Ca2+-activated force under physiological conditions, because of the elevation of intracellular pH as temperature declines. The isometric force did not depend on the concentration of the zwitterionic species of the pH buffer in solutions. The skinned fibre preparation developed a Ca2+-insensitive residual force following maximal activation. The increment in residual force followed a linear relationship with the duration of activation at a given temperature and a power relationship of activation temperature for a given duration of activation. Fibres from warm-acclimated animals developed less residual force following activations at 15 degrees C than did fibres from cool-acclimated animals, suggesting that thermal acclimation may substantially reduce the magnitude of this phenomenon at temperatures below 20 degrees C.