Escape response kinematics in two species of tropical shark

Published on
18 November 2022

Escape response kinematics in two species of tropical shark: short escape latencies and high turning performance

José E. Trujillo, Ian Bouyoucos, William J. Rayment, Paolo Domenici, Serge Planes, Jodie L. Rummer, Bridie J. M. Allan


Accelerative manoeuvres, such as fast-starts, are crucial for fish to avoid predation. Escape responses are fast-starts that include fundamental survival traits for prey that experience high predation pressure. However, no previous study has assessed escape performance in neonate tropical sharks. We quantitatively evaluated vulnerability traits of neonate tropical sharks by testing predictions on their fast-start escape performance. We predicted (1) high manoeuvrability, given their high flexibility, but (2) low propulsive locomotion owing to the drag costs associated with pectoral fin extension during escape responses. Further, based on previous work on dogfish, Squalus suckleyi, we predicted (3) long reaction times (as latencies longer than teleosts, >20 ms). We used two-dimensional, high-speed videography analysis of mechano-acoustically stimulated neonate blacktip reef shark, Carcharhinus melanopterus (n=12), and sicklefin lemon shark, Negaprion acutidens (n=8). Both species performed a characteristic C-start double-bend response (i.e. two body bends), but single-bend responses were only observed in N. acutidens. As predicted, neonate sharks showed high manoeuvrability with high turning rates and tight turning radii (3–11% of body length) but low propulsive performance (i.e. speed, acceleration and velocity) when compared with similar-sized teleosts and S. suckleyi. Contrary to expectations, escape latencies were <20 ms in both species, suggesting that the neurophysiological system of sharks when reacting to a predatory attack may not be limited to long response times. These results provide a quantitative assessment of survival traits in neonate tropical sharks that will be crucial for future studies that consider the vulnerability of these sharks to predation.

J Exp Biol 15 November 2022; 225 (22): jeb243973. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.243973


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