Pectoral fins aid in navigation of a complex environment by bluegill sunfish under sensory deprivation conditions

Brooke E. Flammang, George V. Lauder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations

Abstract

Complex structured environments offer fish advantages as places of refuge and areas of greater potential prey densities, but maneuvering through these environments is a navigational challenge. To successfully navigate complex habitats, fish must have sensory input relaying information about the proximity and size of obstacles. We investigated the role of the pectoral fins as mechanosensors in bluegill sunfish swimming through obstacle courses under different sensory deprivation and flow speed conditions. Sensory deprivation was accomplished by filming in the dark to remove visual input and/or temporarily blocking lateral line input via immersion in cobalt chloride. Fish used their pectoral fins to touch obstacles as they swam slowly past them under all conditions. Loss of visual and/or lateral line sensory input resulted in an increased number of fin taps and shorter tap durations while traversing the course. Propulsive pectoral fin strokes were made in open areas between obstacle posts and fish did not use the pectoral fins to push off or change heading. Bending of the flexible pectoral fin rays may initiate an afferent sensory input, which could be an important part of the proprioceptive feedback system needed to navigate complex environments. This behavioral evidence suggests that it is possible for unspecialized pectoral fins to act in both a sensory and a propulsive capacity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3084-3089
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume216
Issue number16
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science

Keywords

  • Cobalt chloride
  • Lateral line
  • Mechanosensor
  • Obstacle
  • Proprioception
  • Vision

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