Fin ray sensation participates in the generation of normal fin movement in the hovering behavior of the bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus). Academic Article uri icon


  • For many fish species, the pectoral fins serve as important propulsors and stabilizers and are precisely controlled. Although it has been shown that mechanosensory feedback from the fin ray afferent nerves provides information on ray bending and position, the effects of this feedback on fin movement are not known. In other taxa, including insects and mammals, sensory feedback from the limbs has been shown to be important for control of limb-based behaviors and we hypothesized that this is also the case for the fishes. In this study, we examined the impact of the loss of sensory feedback from the pectoral fins on movement kinematics during hover behavior. Research was performed with bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus), a model for understanding the biomechanics of swimming and for bio-inspired design of engineered fins. The bluegill beats its pectoral fins rhythmically, and in coordination with pelvic and median fin movement, to maintain a stationary position while hovering. Bilateral deafferentation of the fin rays results in a splay-finned posture where fins beat regularly but at a higher frequency and without adducting fully against the side of the body. For unilateral transections, more irregular changes in fin movements were recorded. These data indicate that sensory feedback from the fin rays and membrane is important for generating normal hover movements but is not necessary for generating rhythmic fin movement.

publication date

  • November 2015