Tiny reef speedster challenges tuna in the ocean sprint

Tuesday 15 January 2013
Blue-lined wrasse. Photo credit: Sally Pollack (creative commons license, http://eol.org/data_objects/11751640).

Tiny coral reef wrasses can swim as fast as some of the swiftest fish in the ocean – but using only half as much energy to do so, Australian scientists working on the Great Barrier Reef have found.

By flapping their fins in a figure-eight pattern, bluelined wrasses can travel at high speeds while using 40 per cent less energy than tunas of the same size.

Research by Chris Fulton and colleagues determined that the Bluelined wrasse Stethojulis bandanensis maintains tuna-like optimum cruising speeds while using 40% less energy than expected for their body size.

“For a long time, people thought the best high-speed swimmers were the fishes cruising in open waters, like mackerel and tunas,” says Dr Chris Fulton from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the ANU Research School of Biology.

New research by Chris Fulton and colleagues determined that the Bluelined wrasse Stethojulis bandanensis maintains tuna-like optimum cruising speeds while using 40% less energy than expected for their body size.

The wrasse achieves efficiency through a streamlined rigid-body posture, and wing-like pectoral fins that generate lift-based thrust using a 'figure-8' pattern. The finding could yield dramatic reductions in the power needed to propel underwater vehicles at high speed. The paper has been published in PLoS ONE.

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