Tuna are known for exceptional swimming speeds, which are possible because of their thunniform lift-based propulsion, large muscle mass and rigid fusiform body. A rigid body should restrict maneuverability with regard to turn radius and turn rate. To test if turning maneuvers by the Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) are constrained by rigidity, captive animals were videorecorded overhead as the animals routinely swam around a large circular tank or during feeding bouts. Turning performance was classified into three different types: (1) glide turns, where the tuna uses the caudal fin as a rudder; (2) powered turns, where the animal uses continuous near symmetrical strokes of the caudal fin through the turn; and (3) ratchet turns, where the overall global turn is completed by a series of small local turns by asymmetrical stokes of the caudal fin. Individual points of the rostrum, peduncle and tip of the caudal fin were tracked and analyzed. Frame-by-frame analysis showed that the ratchet turn had the fastest turn rate for all points with a maximum of 302 deg s(-1). During the ratchet turn, the rostrum exhibited a minimum global 0.38 body length turn radius. The local turn radii were only 18.6% of the global ratchet turn. The minimum turn radii ranged from 0.4 to 1.7 body lengths. Compared with the performance of other swimmers, the increased flexion of the peduncle and tail and the mechanics of turning behaviors used by tuna overcomes any constraints to turning performance from the rigidity of the anterior body morphology.
Journal of Experimental Biology
Company of Biologists, LTD
Downs, A. M., Kolpas, A., Block, B. A., & Fish, F. E. (2023). Multiple behaviors for turning performance of Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis). Journal of Experimental Biology, 226(4), 1-9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jeb.244144