Background Myoglobin (Mb) is the simplest monomeric hemoprotein and its physicochemical properties including reversible oxygen (O2)binding in aqueous solution are well known. Unexpectedly, however, its physiological role in intact muscle has not yet been established in spite of the fact that the role of the more complex tetrameric hemoprotein, hemoglobin (Hb), in red cells is well established. Here, I report my new findings on an overlooked property of skeletal Mb. Methods I directly observed the oxygenation of Mb in perfused rat skeletal muscle under various states of tissue respiration. A computer-controlled rapid scanning spectrophotometer was used to measure the oxygenation of Mb in the transmission mode. The light beam was focused on the thigh (quadriceps) through a 5-mm-diameter light guide. The transmitted light was conducted to the spectrophotometer through another 5-mm-diameter light guide. Visible difference spectra in the range of 500–650 nm were recorded when O2 uptake in the hindlimb muscle reached a constant value after every stepwise change in the O2 concentration of the buffer. Results The O2 dissociation curve (ODC) of Mb, when the effluent buffer O2 pressure was used as the abscissa, was of a sigmoid shape under normal and increased respiratory conditions whereas it was of rectangular hyperbolic shape under a suppressed respiratory condition. The dissociation curve was shifted toward the right and became more sigmoid with an increase in tissue respiration activity. These observations indicate that an increase in O2 demand in tissues makes the O2 saturation of Mb more sensitive to O2 pressure change in the capillaries and enhances the Mb-mediated O2 transfer from Hb to cytochrome oxidase (Cyt. aa3), especially under heavy O2 demands. Conclusion The virtual cooperativity and O2 demand-dependent shifts of the ODC may provide a basis for explaining why Mb has been preserved as monomer during molecular evolution.