Fish Swimming in a Kármán Vortex Street: Kinematics, Sensory Biology and Energetics

James C. Liao, Otar Akanyeti

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13 Citations (SciVal)
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Fishes often live in environments characterized by complex flows. To study the mechanisms of how fishes interact with unsteady flows, the periodic shedding of vortices behind cylinders has been employed to great effect. In particular, fishes that hold station in a vortex street (i.e., Kármán gaiting) show swimming kinematics that are distinct from their patterns of motion during freestream swimming in uniform flows, although both behaviors can be modeled as an undulatory body wave. Kármán gait kinematics are largely preserved across flow velocities. Larger fish have a shorter body wavelength and slower body wave speed than smaller fish, in contrast to freestream swimming where body wavelength and wave speed increases with size. The opportunity for Kármán gaiting only occurs under specific conditions of flow velocity and depends on the length of the fish; this is reflected in the highest probability of Kármán gaiting at intermediate flow velocities. Fish typically Kármán gait in a region of the cylinder wake where the velocity deficit is about 40% of the nominal flow. The lateral line plays a role in tuning the kinematics of the Kármán gait, since blocking it leads to aberrant kinematics. Vision allows fish to maintain a consistent position relative to the cylinder. In the dark, fish do not show the same preference to hold station behind a cylinder though Kármán gait kinematics are the same. When oxygen consumption level is measured, it reveals that Kármán gaiting represents about half of the cost of swimming in the freestream
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-55
Number of pages8
JournalMarine Technology Society Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2017


  • body mechanics
  • energetics
  • lateral line
  • locomotion
  • vortices


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