Living on the bottom: Kinematics of benthic station-holding in darter fishes (Percidae: Etheostomatinae)

Authors

  • Rose L. Carlson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Museum of Comparative Zoology and Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
    • Museum of Comparative Zoology and Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
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  • George V. Lauder

    1. Museum of Comparative Zoology and Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
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Abstract

Darters represent a substantial radiation of freshwater fishes that live in close association with the substrate in North American streams and rivers. A key feature of any darter species is therefore its ability to stay in place or to “hold station” in flowing water. Here, we quantify the station-holding performance of two morphologically divergent darter species, the fantail darter Etheostoma flabellare and the Missouri saddled darter Etheostoma tetrazonum. We also characterize the primary kinematic responses of the two species when holding station in flow speeds ranging from 4 to 56 cm s−1 in a flow tank on either plexiglas or small rock substrate. We then present a series of hypotheses about the potential hydrodynamic and functional consequences of the observed postural changes and the links among morphology, posture, and station-holding performance. On both substrates, E. tetrazonum was able to hold station at higher flow speeds than E. flabellare. On rocks, E. tetrazonum slipped at an average speed of 55.7 cm s−1 whereas E. flabellare slipped at 40.2 cm s−1. On plexiglas, E. tetrazonum slipped at an average speed of 24.7 cm s−1 whereas E. flabellare slipped at 23.1 cm s−1. We measured body and fin positions of the two species from individual frames of high-speed video while holding station on rocks and plexiglas. We found that on both substrates, the two species generally exhibited similar kinematic responses to increasing flow: the head was lowered and angled downward, the back became more arched, and the median and caudal fin rays contracted as water flow speed increased. The ventral halves of the pectoral fins were also expanded and the dorsal halves contracted. These changes in posture and fin position likely increase negative lift forces thereby increasing substrate contact forces and reducing the probability of downstream slip. J. Morphol., 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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