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Fish pectoral fins move in complex ways, acting as control surfaces to affect force balance during swimming and maneuvering. Though objectively less dynamic than their actinopterygian relatives, shark pectoral fins undergo complex conformational changes and movements during maneuvering. Asynchronous pectoral fin movement is documented during yaw turning in at least two shark species but the three-dimensional (3D) rotation of the fin about the body axes is unknown. We quantify the 3D actuation of the pectoral fin base relative to the body axes. We hypothesized that Pacific spiny dogfish rotate pectoral fins with three degrees of freedom relative to the body during volitional turning. The pectoral fin on the inside of the turn is consistently protracted, supinated and depressed. Additionally, turning angular velocity increased with increasing fin rotation. Estimated drag on the fin increased and the shark decelerated during turning. Based on these findings, we propose that Pacific spiny dogfish uses drag-based turning during volitional swimming. Post-mortem muscle stimulation revealed depression, protraction and supination of the pectoral fin through stimulation of the ventral and cranial pterygoideus muscles. These data confirm functional hypotheses about pectoral fin musculature and suggest that Pacific spiny dogfish actively rotate pectoral fins to facilitate drag-based turning.


This article was originally published in Biology Open, volume 8, issue 1, in 2019.


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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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