Studies of center of mass (COM) motion are fundamental to understanding the dynamics of animal movement, and have been carried out extensively for terrestrial and aerial locomotion. But despite a large amount of literature describing different body movement patterns in fishes, analyses of how the center of mass moves during undulatory propulsion are not available. These data would be valuable for understanding the dynamics of different body movement patterns and the effect of differing body shapes on locomotor force production. In the present study, we analyzed the magnitude and frequency components of COM motion in three dimensions (x: surge, y: sway, z: heave) in three fish species (eel, bluegill sunfish, and clown knifefish) swimming with four locomotor modes at three speeds using high-speed video, and used an image cross-correlation technique to estimate COM motion, thus enabling untethered and unrestrained locomotion. Anguilliform swimming by eels shows reduced COM surge oscillation magnitude relative to carangiform swimming, but not compared to knifefish using a gymnotiform locomotor style. Labriform swimming (bluegill at 0.5 body lengths/s) displays reduced COM sway oscillation relative to swimming in a carangiform style at higher speeds. Oscillation frequency of the COM in the surge direction occurs at twice the tail beat frequency for carangiform and anguilliform swimming, but at the same frequency as the tail beat for gymnotiform locomotion in clown knifefish. Scaling analysis of COM heave oscillation for terrestrial locomotion suggests that COM heave motion scales with positive allometry, and that fish have relatively low COM oscillations for their body size.
Keywords: Center of mass motion; Fish locomotion; Swimming kinematics.
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