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J Exp Biol. 2018 Jun 12;221(Pt 11). pii: jeb168773. doi: 10.1242/jeb.168773.

Turbulent flow reduces oxygen consumption in the labriform swimming shiner perch, Cymatogaster aggregata.

Author information

Zoophysiology, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.
Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, The University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9NT, UK.
Centre for Research into Ecological & Environmental Modelling and School of Mathematics & Statistics, University of St Andrews, Fife KY16 9LZ, UK.
Marine Biology Laboratory, New York University Abu Dhabi, PO Box 129188, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
CNR - IAMC, Istituto per l'Ambiente Marino Costiero, Località Sa Mardini, 09072 Torregrande, Oristano, Italy.
Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, 3000 Helsingør, Denmark.


Fish swimming energetics are often measured in laboratory environments which attempt to minimize turbulence, though turbulent flows are common in the natural environment. To test whether the swimming energetics and kinematics of shiner perch, Cymatogaster aggregata (a labriform swimmer), were affected by turbulence, two flow conditions were constructed in a swim-tunnel respirometer. A low-turbulence flow was created using a common swim-tunnel respirometry setup with a flow straightener and fine-mesh grid to minimize velocity fluctuations. A high-turbulence flow condition was created by allowing large velocity fluctuations to persist without a flow straightener or fine grid. The two conditions were tested with particle image velocimetry to confirm significantly different turbulence properties throughout a range of mean flow speeds. Oxygen consumption rate of the swimming fish increased with swimming speed and pectoral fin beat frequency in both flow conditions. Higher turbulence also caused a greater positional variability in swimming individuals (versus low-turbulence flow) at medium and high speeds. Surprisingly, fish used less oxygen in high-turbulence compared with low-turbulence flow at medium and high swimming speeds. Simultaneous measurements of swimming kinematics indicated that these reductions in oxygen consumption could not be explained by specific known flow-adaptive behaviours such as Kármán gaiting or entraining. Therefore, fish in high-turbulence flow may take advantage of the high variability in turbulent energy through time. These results suggest that swimming behaviour and energetics measured in the lab in straightened flow, typical of standard swimming respirometers, might differ from that of more turbulent, semi-natural flow conditions.


Eddy; Gait; Metabolism; Space use; Swimming kinematics; Vortex


Conflict of interest statement

Competing interestsThe authors declare no competing or financial interests.

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