Most batoid fishes have a unique swimming mode in which thrust is generated by either oscillating or undulating expanded pectoral fins that form a disc. Only one previous study of the freshwater stingray has quantified three-dimensional motions of the wing, and no comparable data are available for marine batoid species that may differ considerably in their mode of locomotion. Here we investigate three-dimensional kinematics of the pectoral wing of the little skate, Leucoraja erinacea, swimming steadily at two speeds (1 and 2 body lengths per second, BL×s−1). We measured the motion of nine points in three dimensions during wing oscillation and determined that there are significant differences in movement amplitude among wing locations, as well as significant differences as speed increases in body angle, wing beat frequency, and speed of the traveling wave on the wing. In addition, we analyzed differences in wing curvature with swimming speed. At 1 BL×s−1, the pectoral wing is convex in shape during the downstroke along the medio-lateral fin midline, but at 2 BL×s−1 the pectoral fin at this location cups into the flow indicating active curvature control and fin stiffening. Wing kinematics of the little skate differed considerably from previous work on the freshwater stingray, which does not show active cupping of the whole fin on the downstroke.
- Received August 23, 2016.
- Accepted December 4, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd