The pectoral spine of catfishes is an antipredator adaptation that can be bound, locked, and rubbed against the cleithrum to produce stridulation sounds. We describe muscle morphology of the pectoral spines and rays in six species in four genera of North American ictalurid catfishes. Since homologies of catfish pectoral muscles have not been universally accepted, we designate them functionally as the spine abductor and adductor and the arrector dorsalis and ventralis. The four muscles of the remaining pectoral rays are the superficial and deep (profundal) abductors and adductors. The large spine abductor and spine adductor are responsible for large amplitude movements, and the smaller arrector dorsalis and arrector ventralis have more specialized functions, that is, spine elevation and depression, respectively, although they also contribute to spine abduction. Three of the four spine muscles were pennate (the abductor and two arrectors), the spine adductor can be pennate or parallel, and ray muscles have parallel fibers. Insertions of pectoral muscles are similar across species, but there is a shift of origins in some muscles, particularly of the superficial abductor of the pectoral rays, which assumes a midline position in Ictalurus and increasingly more lateral placement in Ameiurus (one quarter way out from the midline), and Pylodictis and Noturus (half way out). Coincident with this lateral shift, the attachments of the hypaxial muscle to the ventral girdle become more robust. Comparison with its sister group supports the midline position as basal and lateral migration as derived. The muscles of the pectoral spine are heavier than muscles of the remaining rays in all species but the flathead, supporting the importance of specialized spine functions above typical movement. Further, spine muscles were larger than ray muscles in all species but the flathead catfish, which lives in water with the fastest currents. J. Morphol., 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.