Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Exp Biol. 2003 Mar;206(Pt 5):813-26.

Function of pectoral fins in rainbow trout: behavioral repertoire and hydrodynamic forces.

Author information

  • 1Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Salmonid fishes (trout, salmon and relatives) have served as a model system for study of the mechanics of aquatic animal locomotion, yet little is known about the function of non-axial propulsors in this major taxonomic group. In this study we examine the behavioral and hydromechanical repertoire of the paired pectoral fins of rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss, performing both steady rectilinear swimming and unsteady maneuvering locomotion. A combination of kinematic analysis and quantitative flow visualization (using digital particle image velocimetry) enables identification of the propulsive roles played by pectoral fin motions. During constant-speed swimming (0.5 and 1.0 body length s(-1)), the pectoral fins remain adducted against the body. These fins are actively recruited, however, for a variety of maneuvering behaviors, including station holding in still water (hovering), low-speed (i.e. non-fast-start) turning, and rapid deceleration of the body during braking. Despite having a shallow pectoral-fin base orientation (the plesiomorphic teleost condition), trout are capable of rotating the fin base over 30 degrees during maneuvering, which affords the fin an impressive degree of kinematic versatility. When hovering, the pectoral fins are depressed beneath the body and twisted along their long axes to allow anteroposterior sculling. During turning and braking, the fins undergo spanwise rotation in the opposite direction and exhibit mediolateral and dorsoventral excursions. Water velocity fields and calculated momentum flows in the wake of the pectoral fins reveal that positive thrust is not generated during maneuvering, except during the retraction half-stroke of hovering. Relatively large laterally directed fluid force (mean 2.7 mN) is developed during turning, whose reaction powers yawing rotation of the body (4-41 degrees s(-1)). During deceleration, the wake-force line of action falls below the center of mass of the body, and this result supports a long-standing mechanical model of braking by fishes with ventrally positioned paired fins. Despite its traditional categorization as a propulsor of limited functional importance, the salmoniform pectoral fin exhibits a diverse locomotor repertoire comparable to that of higher teleostean fishes.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

LinkOut - more resources

Full Text Sources

Other Literature Sources

PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire
    Loading ...
    Support Center