A pinboard by
Cassandra Donatelli

Fish Biologist Biomechanicist PhD Candidate at Tufts University


Fish swim in complex environments like coral reefs and underwater forests. How do they do it?

Fish have been around since before the dinosaurs, and have evolved to live in almost every watery environment on our planet. Their ability to inhabit such a wide range of habitats comes from their diverse shapes and behaviors. Fish swimming has captured our interest as far back as ancient Greece, but we still have so many unanswered questions.

For example, I am interested in understanding the way fish swim in 3D. This is a fairly recent field of study as far as fish swimming is concerned. We have observed fish tails and fins twisting about in the water as long as we've been studying fish, but only recently have we began to develop techniques to study it.

I am applying engineering techniques like Solid Mechanics, Fluid Dynamics, and Robotics to study small eel-like fishes called gunnels and pricklebacks that live in the Pacific Northwest.

Check out my video on fish swimming here!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8Dcf6PVGRQ


Hydrodynamic study of freely swimming shark fish propulsion for marine vehicles using 2D particle image velocimetry

Abstract: Two-dimensional velocity fields around a freely swimming freshwater black shark fish in longitudinal (XZ) plane and transverse (YZ) plane are measured using digital particle image velocimetry (DPIV). By transferring momentum to the fluid, fishes generate thrust. Thrust is generated not only by its caudal fin, but also using pectoral and anal fins, the contribution of which depends on the fish’s morphology and swimming movements. These fins also act as roll and pitch stabilizers for the swimming fish. In this paper, studies are performed on the flow induced by fins of freely swimming undulatory carangiform swimming fish (freshwater black shark, L = 26 cm) by an experimental hydrodynamic approach based on quantitative flow visualization technique. We used 2D PIV to visualize water flow pattern in the wake of the caudal, pectoral and anal fins of swimming fish at a speed of 0.5–1.5 times of body length per second. The kinematic analysis and pressure distribution of carangiform fish are presented here. The fish body and fin undulations create circular flow patterns (vortices) that travel along with the body waves and change the flow around its tail to increase the swimming efficiency. The wake of different fins of the swimming fish consists of two counter-rotating vortices about the mean path of fish motion. These wakes resemble like reverse von Karman vortex street which is nothing but a thrust-producing wake. The velocity vectors around a C-start (a straight swimming fish bends into C-shape) maneuvering fish are also discussed in this paper. Studying flows around flapping fins will contribute to design of bioinspired propulsors for marine vehicles.

Pub.: 06 Apr '16, Pinned: 02 Jul '17

Median fin function in bluegill sunfish Lepomis macrochirus: streamwise vortex structure during steady swimming.

Abstract: Fishes have an enormous diversity of body shapes and fin morphologies. From a hydrodynamic standpoint, the functional significance of this diversity is poorly understood, largely because the three-dimensional flow around swimming fish is almost completely unknown. Fully three-dimensional volumetric flow measurements are not currently feasible, but measurements in multiple transverse planes along the body can illuminate many of the important flow features. In this study, I analyze flow in the transverse plane at a range of positions around bluegill sunfish Lepomis macrochirus, from the trailing edges of the dorsal and anal fins to the near wake. Simultaneous particle image velocimetry and kinematic measurements were performed during swimming at 1.2 body lengths s(-1) to describe the streamwise vortex structure, to quantify the contributions of each fin to the vortex wake, and to assess the importance of three-dimensional flow effects in swimming. Sunfish produce streamwise vortices from at least eight distinct places, including both the dorsal and ventral margins of the soft dorsal and anal fins, and the tips and central notched region of the caudal fin. I propose a three-dimensional structure of the vortex wake in which these vortices from the caudal notch are elongated by the dorso-ventral cupping motion of the tail, producing a structure like a hairpin vortex in the caudal fin vortex ring. Vortices from the dorsal and anal fin persist into the wake, probably linking up with the caudal fin vortices. These dorsal and anal fin vortices do not differ significantly in circulation from the two caudal fin tip vortices. Because the circulations are equal and the length of the trailing edge of the caudal fin is approximately equal to the combined trailing edge length of the dorsal and anal fins, I argue that the two anterior median fins produce a total force that is comparable to that of the caudal fin. To provide additional detail on how different positions contribute to total force along the posterior body, the change in vortex circulation as flow passes down the body is also analyzed. The posterior half of the caudal fin and the dorsal and anal fins add vortex circulation to the flow, but circulation appears to decrease around the peduncle and anterior caudal fin. Kinematic measurements indicate that the tail is angled correctly to enhance thrust through this interaction. Finally, the degree to which the caudal fin acts like a idealized two-dimensional plate is examined: approximately 25% of the flow near the tail is accelerated up and down, rather than laterally, producing wasted momentum, a loss not present in ideal two-dimensional theories.

Pub.: 01 Apr '06, Pinned: 02 Jul '17

Functional morphology of the fin rays of teleost fishes.

Abstract: Ray-finned fishes are notable for having flexible fins that allow for the control of fluid forces. A number of studies have addressed the muscular control, kinematics, and hydrodynamics of flexible fins, but little work has investigated just how flexible ray-finned fish fin rays are, and how flexibility affects their response to environmental perturbations. Analysis of pectoral fin rays of bluegill sunfish showed that the more proximal portion of the fin ray is unsegmented while the distal 60% of the fin ray is segmented. We examined the range of motion and curvatures of the pectoral fin rays of bluegill sunfish during steady swimming, turning maneuvers, and hovering behaviors and during a vortex perturbation impacting the fin during the fin beat. Under normal swimming conditions, curvatures did not exceed 0.029 mm(-1) in the proximal, unsegmented portion of the fin ray and 0.065 mm(-1) in the distal, segmented portion of the fin ray. When perturbed by a vortex jet traveling at approximately 1 ms(-1) (67 ± 2.3 mN s.e. of force at impact), the fin ray underwent a maximum curvature of 9.38 mm(-1) . Buckling of the fin ray was constrained to the area of impact and did not disrupt the motion of the pectoral fin during swimming. Flexural stiffness of the fin ray was calculated to be 565 × 10(-6) Nm2 . In computational fluid dynamic simulations of the fin-vortex interaction, very flexible fin rays showed a combination of attraction and repulsion to impacting vortex dipoles. Due to their small bending rigidity (or flexural stiffness), impacting vortices transferred little force to the fin ray. Conversely, stiffer fin rays experienced rapid small-amplitude oscillations from vortex impacts, with large impact forces all along the length of the fin ray. Segmentation is a key design feature of ray-finned fish fin rays, and may serve as a means of making a flexible fin ray out of a rigid material (bone). This flexibility may offer intrinsic damping of environmental fluid perturbations encountered by swimming fish.

Pub.: 31 May '13, Pinned: 02 Jul '17

Vertebral bending mechanics and xenarthrous morphology in the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus).

Abstract: The vertebral column has evolved to accommodate the broad range of locomotor pressures found across vertebrate lineages. Xenarthran (armadillos, sloths, anteaters) vertebral columns are characterized by xenarthrous articulations, novel intervertebral articulations located in the posterior trunk that are hypothesized to stiffen the vertebral column to facilitate digging. To determine the degree to which xenarthrous articulations impact vertebral movement, we passively measured compliance and range of motion during ventroflexion, dorsiflexion, and lateral bending across the thoracolumbar region of the nine-banded armadillo, Dasypus novemcinctus Patterns of bending were compared to changes in vertebral morphology along the column to determine which morphological features best predict intervertebral joint mechanics. We found that compliance was lower in post-diaphragmatic, xenarthrous vertebrae relative to pre-xenarthrous vertebrae in both sagittal and lateral planes of bending. We also found, however, that range of motion was higher in this region. These changes in mechanics are correlated with the transition from pre-xenarthrous to xenarthrous vertebrae, as well as by the transition from thoracic to lumbar vertebrae. Our results thus substantiate the hypothesis that xenarthrous articulations stiffen the vertebral column. Additionally, our data suggest that xenarthrous articulations, and their associated enlarged metapophyses, also act to increase the range of motion of the post-diaphragmatic region. We propose that xenarthrous articulations perform the dual role of stiffening the vertebral column and increasing mobility, resulting in passively stable vertebrae that are capable of substantial bending under appropriate loads.

Pub.: 31 Jul '16, Pinned: 02 Jul '17