Many natural animal movements involve accelerating from a standstill and then stopping. Obstacles in natural environments often limit the straight-line distance available for movement, and decreased braking ability theoretically can limit speed for short distances. Consequently, braking ability can be important for avoiding collisions with obstacles and exploiting resources effectively in complex environments. A presumed morphological correlate of improved braking performance in fish is increased pectoral fin area, because most fish protract these structures as they decelerate. However, the kinematics and modulation of velocity during starting and stopping are poorly understood for most species of fish as well as most species of animals. Thus, for bluegill sunfish Lepomis macrochirus with complete and partially ablated pectoral fins (35% original fin area), we analyzed high speed video recordings (200 images s-1) of predatory attacks with a start and stop in a short, standardized distance (40 cm). We quantified body displacement, velocity, acceleration, deceleration and several fin angle variables during each feeding. Unexpectedly, several variables including maximum velocity and maximum deceleration (grand means 72 cm s -1 and -512 cm s-2, respectively) did not change significantly with reduced pectoral fin area. The average values of braking movements of the median and caudal fins did increase with decreased pectoral fin area but lacked statistically significant differences. The primary mechanism of attaining similar braking performance with decreased area of the pectoral fins was that they were protracted significantly more (mean difference=42°) and with a significantly faster average velocity of protraction. Thus, pectoral fin area appears unlikely to be the primary constraint on braking performance for this particular task.
Higham, T. E., Malas, B., Jayne, B. C., & Lauder, G. V. (2005). Constraints on starting and stopping: Behavior compensates for reduced pectoral fin area during braking of the bluegill sunfish Lepomis macrochirus. Journal of Experimental Biology, 208(24), 4735–4746. https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.01966