Shreyas Mandre

University Associate Professor of Fluid-Structure Interaction
Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge

Curvature-induced stiffening of fish fin J. R. Soc. Interface. 14: 20170247 PDF

by Nguyen, Yu, Bandi, Venkadesan and Mandre
Biomechanics Fish fins


How fish modulate their fin stiffness during locomotive manoeuvres remains unknown. We show that changing the fin’s curvature modulates its stiffness. Modelling the fin as bendable bony rays held together by a membrane, we deduce that fin curvature is manifested as a misalignment of the principal bending axes between neighbouring rays. An external force causes neighbouring rays to bend and splay apart, and thus stretches the membrane. This coupling between bending the rays and stretching the membrane underlies the increase in stiffness. Using three-dimensional reconstruction of a mackerel (Scomber japonicus) pectoral fin for illustration, we calculate the range of stiffnesses this fin is expected to span by changing curvature. The three-dimensional reconstruction shows that, even in its geometrically flat state, a functional curvature is embedded within the fin microstructure owing to the morphology of individual rays. As the ability of a propulsive surface to transmit force to the surrounding fluid is limited by its stiffness, the fin curvature controls the coupling between the fish and its surrounding fluid. Thereby, our results provide mechanical underpinnings and morphological predictions for the hypothesis that the spanned range of fin stiffnesses correlates with the behaviour and the ecological niche of the fish.