ABSTRACT

Archerfish down a variety of aerial prey from a range of distances using water jets that they adjust to the size and distance of their prey. We describe here that characteristic rapid fin maneuvers, most notably of the pectoral and pelvic fins, are precisely coordinated with the release of the jet. We discovered these maneuvers in two fish, the jets of which had been characterized in detail, that had been trained to shoot from fixed positions at targets at different heights and that remained stable during their shots. Based on the findings in these individuals, we examined shooting-associated fin movement in 28 further archerfish of two species that could shoot from freely chosen positions at targets at different heights. Slightly before the onset of the water jet, at a time when the shooter remains stable, the pectoral fins of all shooters switched from asynchronous low-amplitude beating to a synchronized rapid forward flap. The onset and duration of the forward and subsequent backward flap were robust across all individuals and shooting angles but depended on target height. The pelvic fins were slowly adducted at the start of the jet and stopped moving after its release. All other fins also showed a characteristic sequence of activation, some starting ∼0.5 s before the shot. Our findings suggest that shooting-related fin maneuvers are needed to stabilize the shooter, and that these maneuvers are an important component in the precise and powerful far-distance shooting in archerfish.

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