Bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus) swim in the labriform mode at low speeds, generating lift and thrust by beating their pectoral fins. The maximal power output available from the two largest pectoral fin adductor and abductor muscles, constituting half of the total pectoral girdle muscle mass, was measured in vitro and used to estimate the muscle mechanical power output during maximal labriform swimming (Pmech; 0.15-0.21 W kg(-1) body mass). Respirometry was used to estimate the total metabolic power input (Ptotal; 0.95 W kg(-1) body mass) and the metabolic power available to the active muscle mass (Pmuscle; Ptotal minus standard metabolic rate, 0.57 W kg(-1) body mass) at this swimming speed. Drag measurements made on towed, dead fish were used to estimate the mechanical power required to overcome body drag (Pdrag; 0.028 W kg(-1) body mass). Efficiency estimates based on these data fell into the following ranges: overall swimming efficiency (etagross=Pmech/Ptotal), 0.16-0.22; muscle efficiency (etamuscle=Pmech/Pmuscle), 0.26-0.37; and propeller efficiency (etaprop=Pdrag/Pmech), 0.15-0.20. Comparison with other studies suggests that labriform swimming may be more efficient than swimming powered by undulations of the body axis.