In the dense aquatic environment, the most adept swimmers are streamlined to reduce drag and increase the efficiency of locomotion. However, because they open their mouth to wide gape angles to deploy their filtering apparatus, ram filter feeders apparently switch between diametrically opposite swimming modes; highly efficient, streamlined 'beat-glide' swimming, and ram filter feeding, which has been hypothesized to be a high-cost feeding mode because of presumed increased drag. Ram filter feeding forage fish are thought to play an important role in the flux of nutrients and energy in upwelling ecosystems, however the biomechanics and energetics of this feeding mechanism remain poorly understood. We quantified the kinematics of an iconic forage fish, the northern anchovy, Engraulis mordax, during ram filter feeding and non-feeding, mouth-closed beat-glide swimming. Although many kinematic parameters between the two swimming modes were similar, we found that swimming speeds and tailbeat frequencies were significantly lower during ram feeding. Rather than maintain speed with the school, a speed which closely matches theoretical optimum filter feeding speeds was consistently observed. Beat-glide swimming was characterized by high variability in all kinematic parameters, but variance in kinematic parameters was much lower during ram filter feeding. Under this mode, body kinematics are substantially modified, and E. mordax swims more slowly, and with decreased lateral movement along the entire body, but most noticeably in the anterior. Our results suggest that hydrodynamic effects that come with deployment of the filtering anatomy may limit behavioral options during foraging and result in slower swimming speeds during ram filtration.
- Received February 15, 2017.
- Accepted May 8, 2017.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd