Document Type




Journal Title

Journal of Experimental Biology

Pub Date



The Company of Biologists



Journal Article URL

First Page



Ram suspension-feeding fishes swim with an open mouth to force water through the oral cavity and extract prey items that are too small to be pursued individually. Recent research has indicated that, rather than using a dead-end mechanical sieve, American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) employ vortical cross-step filtration. In this filtration mechanism, vortical flow that is generated posterior to the branchial arches organizes crossflow filtration processes into a spatial structure across the gill rakers. Despite the known impact of locomotor kinematics on fluid flow around the bodies of swimming fish, the effects of locomotor kinematics on filtration mechanisms in ram suspension feeders are unknown. Potential temporal organization of filtration mechanisms in ram suspension-feeding fish has not been studied previously. We investigated the effects of locomotor kinematics associated with undulatory swimming on intra-oral flow patterns and food particle transport. A mechanized model of the oral cavity was used to simulate the swimming kinematics of suspension-feeding paddlefish. We recorded fluctuations of flow speed and pressure within the model, which occurred at a frequency that corresponded with the frequency of the model's strides. Using the mechanized model in a flow tank seeded with Artemia cysts, we also showed that swimming kinematics aided the transport of this simulated food to the posterior margins of the gill slots, although the time scale of this transport is expected to vary with prey parameters such as size and concentration. Dye stream experiments revealed that, although stable vortical flow formed because of flow separation downstream of backward-facing steps in control trials, vortical flow structures in mechanized trials repeatedly formed and shed. These findings suggest strong integration between locomotor and feeding systems in ram suspension-feeding fishes.


doi: 10.1242/jeb.166835