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Integr Comp Biol. 2015 Oct;55(4):648-61. doi: 10.1093/icb/icv059. Epub 2015 Jun 9.

Stability Design and Response to Waves by Batoids.

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Department of Biology, West Chester University, West Chester, PA 19383, USA
Department of Biology, West Chester University, West Chester, PA 19383, USA.


Unsteady flows in the marine environment can affect the stability and locomotor costs of animals. For fish swimming at shallow depths, waves represent a form of unsteady flow. Waves consist of cyclic oscillations, during which the water moves in circular or elliptical orbits. Large gravity waves have the potential to displace fish both cyclically and in the direction of wave celerity for animals floating in the water column or holding station on the bottom. Displacement of a fish can exceed its stability control capability when the size of the wave orbit is equivalent to the size of the fish. Previous research into compensatory behaviors of fishes to waves has focused on pelagic osteichthyan fishes with laterally compressed bodies. However, dorsoventrally compressed batoid rays must also contend with waves. Examination of rays subjected to waves showed differing strategies for stability between pelagic and demersal species. Pelagic cownose rays (Rhinoptera bonasus) would glide through or be transported by waves, maintaining a positive dihedral of the wing-like pectoral fins. Demersal Atlantic stingrays (Dasyatis sabina) and freshwater rays (Potamotrygon motoro) maintained contact with the bottom and performed compensatory fin motions and body postures. The ability to limit displacement due to wave action by the demersal rays was also a function of the bottom texture. The ability of rays to maintain stability due to wave action suggests mechanisms to compensate for the velocity flux of the water impinging on the large projected area of the enlarged pectoral fins of rays.

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