The flow fields involved in hydrodynamic imaging by blind Mexican cave fish (Astyanax fasciatus). Part I: open water and heading towards a wall

Stuart P. Windsor, Stuart E. Norris, Stuart M. Cameron, Gordon D. Mallinson, John C. Montgomery

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49 Citations (Scopus)


Blind Mexican cave fish (Astyanax fasciatus) sense the presence of nearby objects by sensing changes in the water flow around their body. The information available to the fish using this hydrodynamic imaging ability depends on the properties of the flow field it generates while gliding and how this flow field is altered by the presence of objects. Here, we used particle image velocimetry to measure the flow fields around gliding blind cave fish as they moved through open water and when heading towards a wall. These measurements, combined with computational fluid dynamics models, were used to estimate the stimulus to the lateral line system of the fish. Our results showed that there was a high-pressure region around the nose of the fish, lowpressure regions corresponding to accelerated flow around the widest part of the body and a thick laminar boundary layer down the body. When approaching a wall head-on, the changes in the stimulus to the lateral line were confined to approximately the first 20% of the body. Assuming that the fish are sensitive to a certain relative change in lateral line stimuli, it was found that swimming at higher Reynolds numbers slightly decreased the distance at which the fish could detect a wall when approaching head-on, which is the opposite to what has previously been expected. However, when the effects of environmental noise are considered, swimming at higher speed may improve the signal to noise ratio of the stimulus to the lateral line.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3819-3831
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2010



  • hydrodynamic imaging
  • lateral line
  • Astyanax fasciatus
  • biomechanics
  • blind cave fish
  • computational fluid dynamics

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