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

TitleRole of water flow regime in the swimming behaviour and escape performance of a schooling fish
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsNadler L.E, Killen S.S, Domenici P., McCormick M.I
Date Published2018/10
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number2046-6390
Accession NumberWOS:000448607800001
KeywordsAnaerobic capacity; antipredator; behavior; cohesion; coral-reef fish; Escape response; Fast-start behaviour; habitat; herring clupea-harengus; information-transfer; Life Sciences & Biomedicine - Other Topics; locomotor performance; phenotypic plasticity; plasticity; progressive hypoxia; Schooling behaviour; shoal; spatial position; teleost fish

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 vindis 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. This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.

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