Fish optimize sensing and respiration during undulatory swimming

Otar Akanyeti, Patrick J. M. Thornycroft, George V. Lauder, Yuzo R. Yanagitsuru, Ashley N. Peterson, James C. Liao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (SciVal)
122 Downloads (Pure)


Previous work in fishes considers undulation as a means of propulsion without addressing how it may affect other functions such as sensing and respiration. Here we show that undulation can optimize propulsion, flow sensing and respiration concurrently without any apparent tradeoffs when head movements are coupled correctly with the movements of the body. This finding challenges a long-held assumption that head movements are simply an unintended consequence of undulation, existing only because of the recoil of an oscillating tail. We use a combination of theoretical, biological and physical experiments to reveal the hydrodynamic mechanisms underlying this concerted optimization. Based on our results we develop a parsimonious control architecture that can be used by both undulatory animals and machines in dynamic environments
Original languageEnglish
Article number11044
Number of pages8
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • ichthyology
  • respiration


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