Volumetric imaging of fish locomotion

Brooke E. Flammang, George V. Lauder, Daniel R. Troolin, Tyson E. Strand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Fishes use multiple flexible fins in order to move and maintain stability in a complex fluid environment. We used a new approach, a volumetric velocimetry imaging system, to provide the first instantaneous three-dimensional views of wake structures as they are produced by freely swimming fishes. This new technology allowed us to demonstrate conclusively the linked ring vortex wake pattern that is produced by the symmetrical (homocercal) tail of fishes, and to visualize for the first time the three-dimensional vortex wake interaction between the dorsal and anal fins and the tail. We found that the dorsal and anal fin wakes were rapidly (within one tail beat) assimilated into the caudal fin vortex wake. These results show that volumetric imaging of biologically generated flow patterns can reveal new features of locomotor dynamics, and provides an avenue for future investigations of the diversity of fish swimming patterns and their hydrodynamic consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)695-698
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 23 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Fish
  • Locomotion
  • Swimming
  • Volumetric imaging
  • Vortex


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