Role of water flow regime in the swimming behaviour and escape performance of a schooling fish

Nadler, Lauren E., Killen, Shaun S., Domenici, Paolo, and McCormick, Mark I. (2018) Role of water flow regime in the swimming behaviour and escape performance of a schooling fish. Biology Open, 7 (10). bio031997.

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Animals are exposed to variable and rapidly changing environmental flow conditions, such as wind in terrestrial habitats and currents in aquatic systems. For fishes, previous work suggests that individuals exhibit flow-induced changes in aerobic swimming performance. Yet, no one has examined whether similar plasticity is found in fast-start escape responses, which are modulated by anaerobic swimming performance, sensory stimuli and neural control. In this study, we used fish from wild schools of the tropical damselfish Chromis viridis from shallow reefs surrounding Lizard Island in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. The flow regime at each site was measured to ascertain differences in mean water flow speed and its temporal variability. Swimming and escape behaviour in fish schools were video-recorded in a laminar-flow swim tunnel. Though each school's swimming behaviour (i.e. alignment and cohesion) was not associated with local flow conditions, traits linked with fast-start performance (particularly turning rate and the distance travelled with the response) were significantly greater in individuals from high-flow habitats. This stronger performance may occur due to a number of mechanisms, such as an in situ training effect or greater selection pressure for faster performance phenotypes in areas with high flow speed.

Item ID: 56178
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2046-6390
Keywords: schooling behaviour, fast-start behaviour, anaerobic capacity, habitat, escape response, plasticity
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Copyright Information: © 2018. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided that the original work is properly attributed.
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This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper (see Related URLs).

Funders: James Cook University (JCU), Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation (LIRRF), Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Australian Research Council (ARC), ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Projects and Grants: JCU Australian Postgraduate Award, JCU International Postgraduate Research Scholarship, LIRRF Doctoral Fellowship, GBRMPA Science for Management Award, JCU Graduate Research Scheme (GRS), NERC Advanced Fellowship NE/J019100/1, ARC Discovery Grant DP170103372, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies EI140100117
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2018 09:40
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310307 Population ecology @ 70%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310999 Zoology not elsewhere classified @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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