Escape trajectories are deflected when fish larvae intercept their own C-start wake

G. Li, U.K. Müller, J.L. van Leeuwen, H. Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Fish larvae may intercept their own wake during sharp turns, which might affect their escape performance. We analysed C-starts of larval zebrafish (Danio rerio, Hamilton, 1822) using a computational fluid dynamics approach that simulates free swimming (swimming trajectory is determined by fluid forces) by coupling hydrodynamics and body dynamics. The simulations show that fish may intercept their own wake when they turn by 100–180°. During stage 1 of a C-start, the fish generates a strong jet at the tail that is shed into the wake. During stage 2, the fish intercepts this wake. Counterfactual simulations showed that wake interception increased the lateral force on the fish and reduced the fish's turning angle by more than 5°. Wake interception caused no significant acceleration tangential to the trajectory of the fish and did not affect total power output. While experimental and simulation evidence suggests that fish larvae can either undershoot or intercept but not overshoot their wake, our simulations show that larger fish might be able to avoid intercepting their wake by either under- or overshooting. As intercepting its own wake modifies the fish's escape trajectory, fish should account for this effect when planning their escape route.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20140848
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Royal Society, Interface
Issue number101
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • C-start
  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Escape
  • Larval zebrafish
  • Wake interception


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