Swimming kinematics and hydrodynamic imaging in the blind Mexican cave fish (Astyanax fasciatus)

Shane P. Windsor*, Delfinn Tan, John C. Montgomery

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

65 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Blind Mexican cave fish (Astyanax fasciatus) lack a functioning visual system, and are known to use self-generated water motion to sense their surroundings; an ability termed hydrodynamic imaging. Nearby objects distort the flow field created by the motion of the fish. These flow distortions are sensed by the mechanosensory lateral line. Here we used image processing to measure detailed kinematics, along with a new behavioural technique, to investigate the effectiveness of hydrodynamic imaging. In a head on approach to a wall, fish reacted to avoid collision with the wall at an average distance of only 4.0 +/- 0.2 mm. Contrary to previous expectation, there was no significant correlation between the swimming velocity of the fish and the distance at which they reacted to the wall. Hydrodynamic imaging appeared to be most effective when the fish were gliding with their bodies held straight, with the proportion of approaches to the wall that resulted in collision increasing from 11% to 73% if the fish were beating their tails rather than gliding as they neared the wall. The swimming kinematics of the fish were significantly different when swimming beside a wall compared with when swimming away from any walls. Blind cave fish frequently touched walls when swimming alongside them, indicating that they use both tactile and hydrodynamic information in this situation. We conclude that although hydrodynamic imaging can provide effective collision avoidance, it is a short-range sense that may often be used synergistically with direct touch.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2950-2959
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume211
Issue number18
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2008

Keywords

  • ANOPTICHTHYS-JORDANI CHARACIDAE
  • hydrodynamic imaging
  • BOUNDARY-LAYER
  • lateral line
  • FLOW FIELD
  • LOCOMOTION
  • biomechanics
  • BEHAVIOR
  • blind cave fish
  • LATERAL-LINE SYSTEM
  • ENERGETIC ADVANTAGES
  • DIFFERENTIATION
  • kinematics
  • DISCRIMINATION
  • STATIONARY OBJECTS
  • astyanax fasciatus

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