A biorobotic model of the sunfish pectoral fin for investigations of fin sensorimotor control. Academic Article uri icon


  • A comprehensive understanding of the control of flexible fins is fundamental to engineering underwater vehicles that perform like fish, since it is the fins that produce forces which control the fish's motion. However, little is known about the fin's sensory system or about how fish use sensory information to modulate the fin and to control propulsive forces. As part of a research program that involves neuromechanical and behavioral studies of the sunfish pectoral fin, a biorobotic model of the pectoral fin and of the fin's sensorimotor system was developed and used to investigate relationships between sensory information, fin ray motions and propulsive forces. This robotic fin is able to generate the motions and forces of the biological fin during steady swimming and turn maneuvers, and is instrumented with a relatively small set of sensors that represent the biological lateral line and receptors hypothesized to exist intrinsic to the pectoral fin. Results support the idea that fin ray curvature, and the pressure in the flow along the wall that represents the fish body, capture time-varying characteristics of the magnitude and direction of the force created throughout a fin beat. However, none of the sensor modalities alone are sufficient to predict the propulsive force. Knowledge of the time-varying force vector with sufficient detail for the closed-loop control of fin ray motion will result from the integration of characteristics of many sensor modalities.

publication date

  • September 2010