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

Julie M. van der Hoop*, Margaret L. Byron, Karlina Ozolina, David L. Miller, Jacob L. Johansen, Paolo Domenici, John F. Steffensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


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 rates of the swimming fish increased with swimming speeds and pectoral fin beat frequencies in both flow conditions. Higher turbulence also caused a greater positional variability in swimming individuals (vs. low-turbulence flow) at medium and high speeds. Surprisingly, fish used less oxygen in high turbulence compared to 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 behavior 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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number168773
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number11
Early online date3 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2018


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


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