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Fish Exploiting Vortices Decrease Muscle Activity

Science  28 Nov 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5650, pp. 1566-1569
DOI: 10.1126/science.1088295

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Abstract

Fishes moving through turbulent flows or in formation are regularly exposed to vortices. Although animals living in fluid environments commonly capture energy from vortices, experimental data on the hydrodynamics and neural control of interactions between fish and vortices are lacking. We used quantitative flow visualization and electromyography to show that trout will adopt a novel mode of locomotion to slalom in between experimentally generated vortices by activating only their anterior axial muscles. Reduced muscle activity during vortex exploitation compared with the activity of fishes engaged in undulatory swimming suggests a decrease in the cost of locomotion and provides a mechanism to understand the patterns of fish distributions in schools and riverine environments.

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