When attacked by predators, flatfishes perform fast-starts that result in a rapid take-off from the ocean bottom on which they lie. High-speed video recordings of the blind side of flatfishes indicate that they expel a coherent jet of water from the blind-side opercular valve during take-off. Buccal pressure recordings in winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) show that a buccal pressure pulse begins 0­20 ms before the beginning of the fast-start and has a range of mean magnitudes for three individuals of 1.6­10.7 kPa. We hypothesize that one function of the opercular jet in flatfishes may be to reduce the effects of Stefan adhesion. Stefan adhesion occurs as the fish lifts its head up rapidly from the ocean bottom, when water must flow into the space forming beneath the fish. Water viscosity opposes this rapid shear, and a suction pressure develops under the fish, making it more difficult for the fish to escape from the bottom. To estimate the magnitude of Stefan adhesion, we simulated fast-starts using a physical model in which a dead flounder was pulled upwards with an acceleration of 95 m s-2. Results from the physical model indicate that up to 35 % of the total force required to lift the head at 20 ms into the start can be attributed to Stefan adhesion. Despite this large adhesion force, previous work has shown that live flatfish do not show improved fast-start performance when Stefan adhesion has been eliminated by starting the fish from an open wire grid. Thus, live fishes are likely to be using behavioral mechanisms to reduce the adhesion force. Both the timing and location along the body of the opercular jet indicate that it is ideally suited to attenuate the effects of Stefan adhesion. Propping the body up on the median fins may also reduce adhesion by increasing the initial distance between the fish and the ocean floor.

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