Coasting in live-bearing fish: The drag penalty of being pregnant

Elsa Quicazan Rubio, J. L. (Johan) van Leeuwen, Klaas van Manen, Mike Fleuren, Bart J. A. Pollux*, Eize Stamhuis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Swimming performance of pregnant live-bearing fish is presumably constrained by the additional drag associated with the reproductive burden. Yet, it is still unclear how and to what extent the reproductive investment affects body drag of the females. We examined the effect of different levels of reproductive investment on body drag. The biggest measured increase in body volume due to pregnancy was about 43%, linked to a wetted area increase of about 16% and 69% for the frontal area. We printed three-dimensional models of live-bearing fish in a straight body posture representing different reproductive allocation (RA) levels. We measured the drag and visualized the flow around these models in a flow tunnel at different speeds. Drag grew in a power fashion with speed and exponentially with the increase of RA, thus drag penalty for becoming thicker was relatively low for low speeds compared to high ones. We show that the drag increase with increasing RA was most probably due to bigger regions of flow separation behind the enlarged belly. We suggest that the rising drag penalty with an increasing RA, possibly together with pregnancy-related negative effects on muscle- and abdominal bending performance, will reduce the maximum swimming speed.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number151
Publication statusPublished - 6-Feb-2019


  • swimming
  • biomechanics
  • reproductive allocation
  • particle image velocimetry
  • COST

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