Fish locomotion: recent advances and new directions

Ann Rev Mar Sci. 2015;7:521-45. doi: 10.1146/annurev-marine-010814-015614. Epub 2014 Sep 19.


Research on fish locomotion has expanded greatly in recent years as new approaches have been brought to bear on a classical field of study. Detailed analyses of patterns of body and fin motion and the effects of these movements on water flow patterns have helped scientists understand the causes and effects of hydrodynamic patterns produced by swimming fish. Recent developments include the study of the center-of-mass motion of swimming fish and the use of volumetric imaging systems that allow three-dimensional instantaneous snapshots of wake flow patterns. The large numbers of swimming fish in the oceans and the vorticity present in fin and body wakes support the hypothesis that fish contribute significantly to the mixing of ocean waters. New developments in fish robotics have enhanced understanding of the physical principles underlying aquatic propulsion and allowed intriguing biological features, such as the structure of shark skin, to be studied in detail.

Keywords: hydrodynamics; kinematics; robotics; swimming.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Fishes / anatomy & histology*
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Models, Biological
  • Robotics*
  • Species Specificity
  • Swimming / physiology*
  • Tail / anatomy & histology
  • Water Movements