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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54033. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054033. Epub 2013 Jan 9.

Energetic extremes in aquatic locomotion by coral reef fishes.

Author information

1
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia. christopher.fulton@anu.edu.au

Abstract

Underwater locomotion is challenging due to the high friction and resistance imposed on a body moving through water and energy lost in the wake during undulatory propulsion. While aquatic organisms have evolved streamlined shapes to overcome such resistance, underwater locomotion has long been considered a costly exercise. Recent evidence for a range of swimming vertebrates, however, has suggested that flapping paired appendages around a rigid body may be an extremely efficient means of aquatic locomotion. Using intermittent flow-through respirometry, we found exceptional energetic performance in the Bluelined wrasse Stethojulis bandanensis, which maintains tuna-like optimum cruising speeds (up to 1 metre s(-1)) while using 40% less energy than expected for their body size. Displaying an exceptional aerobic scope (22-fold above resting), streamlined rigid-body posture, and wing-like fins that generate lift-based thrust, S. bandanensis literally flies underwater to efficiently maintain high optimum swimming speeds. Extreme energetic performance may be key to the colonization of highly variable environments, such as the wave-swept habitats where S. bandanensis and other wing-finned species tend to occur. Challenging preconceived notions of how best to power aquatic locomotion, biomimicry of such lift-based fin movements could yield dramatic reductions in the power needed to propel underwater vehicles at high speed.

PMID:
23326566
PMCID:
PMC3541231
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0054033
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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