Are fish good athletes?
18 September 2013

The comparative athleticism of fish probably isn’t a thought that crosses many people’s minds. For Sandra Binning and Dominique Roche, its more than just a thought – they’ve built swim tunnels to test fishes’ fitness.

The husband and wife duo, from the Research School of Biology and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, work on exercise physiology in coral reef fish.

It is predicted that climate change will alter wave action on coral reefs to be much more turbulent and, and as a result, fish will need more power, agility and cardiovascular fitness to survive.

After collecting fish (their study species is Acanthochromis polyacanthus) from the wild and bringing them into the lab, Binning and Roche expose them to the wavy, turbulent sea conditions predicted of the future to judge whether they will be able to adapt.

Not only are they ‘training up’ fish that come from areas that don’t get a lot of wave exposure to see if they can become better athletes, they also look at fish who come from habitats with a lot of current and wave exposure to see if they essentially become ‘couch potatoes’ when placed in an environment that doesn’t require them to swim on a regular basis.

The results may help determine if these fish are destined to survive in a climate that is predicted to deliver more intense, frequent storms.

Related links

  Are fish good athletes? ANU Channel YouTube video