Laboratory studies were conducted on 15 schools of blackchin shiners, Notropis heterodon, to determine if they altered their structure in response to changing environmental demands. The hypothesis tested was that fish schools should sacrifice a flat, hydrodynamically efficient structure in favour of an unobstructed visual field in the presence of a predator by staggering in the vertical plane. Ten schools were exposed for two weeks to a simple environment with only a current. For the next two-week period a predator was added. Five control schools were exposed to the simple environment for both two-week periods. Six of the ten treated schools increased their staggering in the vertical dimension as predicted while none of the control schools changed. This result was suggestive that hydrodynamic advantages were sacrificed. Respirometer experiments indicated these fish were capable of achieving some hydrodynamic benefits from schooling but these benefits may be a function of fish size.
Fish schoolsPredator avoidancePredator detectionSchool functionSchoolingSwimming efficiency