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Hydraulic control of tuna fins: A role for the lymphatic system in vertebrate locomotion

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Science  21 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6348, pp. 310-314
DOI: 10.1126/science.aak9607

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Hydraulic fins

The lymphatic system in fish has much the same function as it does in mammals—immune response and homeostasis. Pavlov et al. show, however, that in the scromboid (tuna and mackerel) family of fish, this fluid homeostasis function has been co-opted to help facilitate dorsal fin rigidity and movement (see the Perspective by Triantafyllou). In bluefin tuna, a series of lymphatic vessels are integrated with muscles that allow the fish to raise and stiffen their dorsal fin. This provides extra stability during swimming.

Science, this issue p. 310; see also p. 251

Abstract

The lymphatic system in teleost fish has genetic and developmental origins similar to those of the mammalian lymphatic system, which is involved in immune response and fluid homeostasis. Here, we show that the lymphatic system of tunas functions in swimming hydrodynamics. Specifically, a musculo-vascular complex, consisting of fin muscles, bones, and lymphatic vessels, is involved in the hydraulic control of median fins. This specialization of the lymphatic system is associated with fish in the family Scombridae and may have evolved in response to the demand for swimming and maneuvering control in these high-performance species.

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