The invisible fish: hydrodynamic constraints for predator-prey interaction in fossil fish Saurichthys compared to recent actinopterygians

Kogan, I., Pacholak, S., Licht, M., Schneider, J., Brücker, C. & Brandt, S. (2015). The invisible fish: hydrodynamic constraints for predator-prey interaction in fossil fish Saurichthys compared to recent actinopterygians. Biology Open, 4(12), pp. 1715-1726. doi: 10.1242/bio.014720

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Recent pike-like predatory fishes attack prey animals by a quick strike out of rest or slow movement. This fast-start behaviour includes a preparatory, a propulsive and a final phase, and the latter is crucial for the success of the attack. To prevent prey from escape, predators tend to minimise the duration of the interaction and the disturbance caused to surrounding water in order to not be detected by the prey's lateral line sensory system. We compared the hydrodynamic properties of the earliest fossil representative of the pike-like morphotype, the Triassic actinopterygian Saurichthys, with several recent pike-like predators by means of computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Rainbow trout has been used as a control example of a fish with a generalist body shape. Our results show that flow disturbance produced by Saurichthys was low and similar to that of the recent forms Belone and Lepisosteus, thus indicative of an effective ambush predator. Drag coefficients are low for all these fishes, but also for trout, which is a good swimmer over longer distances but generates considerable disturbance of flow. Second-highest flow disturbance values are calculated for Esox, which compensates the large disturbance with its extremely high acceleration performance (i.e. attacks at high speeds) and the derived teleostean protrusible mouth that allows prey catching from longer distances compared to the other fishes. We show CFD modelling to be a useful tool for palaeobiological reconstruction of fossil fishes, as it allows quantification of impacts of body morphology on a hypothesised lifestyle.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ambush predators; CFD; Fossil fish; Locomotion; Palaeontology; Saurichthys
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Divisions: School of Engineering & Mathematical Sciences > Engineering

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