The employment of gliding in aquatic animals as a means of conserving energy has been theoretically predicted and discussed for decades. Several studies have shown that some species glide, whereas others do not. Freshwater fish species that widely inhabit both lentic and lotic environments are thought to be able to adapt to fluctuating flow conditions in terms of locomotion. In adapting to the different functional demands of lentic and lotic environments on fish energetics, physostomous (open swim bladder) fish may optimise their locomotion and activity by controlling their net buoyancy; few buoyancy studies have however been conducted on physostomous fish in the wild. We deployed accelerometers on free-ranging channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus, in both lentic and lotic environments, to quantify their swimming activity, and to determine their buoyancy condition preferences, and whether gliding conserves energy. Individual comparisons of swimming efforts between ascent and descent phases revealed that all fish in the lentic environment had negative buoyancy. However, all individuals showed many descents without gliding phases, which was contrary to the behaviour predicted to minimise the cost of transport. The fact that significantly fewer gliding phases were observed in the lotic environment, together with the existence of neutrally buoyant fish, indicated that channel catfish seem to optimise their locomotion through buoyancy control based on flow conditions. The buoyancy optimisation of channel catfish relative to the flow conditions that they inhabit not only reflects differences in swimming behaviour but also provides new insights into the adaptation of physostome fish species to various freshwater environments.
- Received March 8, 2016.
- Accepted November 23, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd