3 years ago

Simple phalanx pattern leads to energy saving in cohesive fish schooling [Applied Physical Sciences]

Simple phalanx pattern leads to energy saving in cohesive fish schooling [Applied Physical Sciences]
Benȷamin Thiria, Thanh–Tung Ha, Ramiro Godoy–Diana, Hanae Bradshaw, Intesaaf Ashraf, Jose Halloy

The question of how individuals in a population organize when living in groups arises for systems as different as a swarm of microorganisms or a flock of seagulls. The different patterns for moving collectively involve a wide spectrum of reasons, such as evading predators or optimizing food prospection. Also, the schooling pattern has often been associated with an advantage in terms of energy consumption. In this study, we use a popular aquarium fish, the red nose tetra fish, Hemigrammus bleheri, which is known to swim in highly cohesive groups, to analyze the schooling dynamics. In our experiments, fish swim in a shallow-water tunnel with controlled velocity, and stereoscopic video recordings are used to track the 3D positions of each individual in a school, as well as their tail-beating kinematics. Challenging the widespread idea of fish favoring a diamond pattern to swim more efficiently [Weihs D (1973) Nature 241:290–291], we observe that when fish are forced to swim fast—well above their free-swimming typical velocity, and hence in a situation where efficient swimming would be favored—the most frequent configuration is the “phalanx” or “soldier” formation, with all individuals swimming side by side. We explain this observation by considering the advantages of tail-beating synchronization between neighbors, which we have also characterized. Most importantly, we show that schooling is advantageous as compared with swimming alone from an energy-efficiency perspective.

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