Three-dimensional analysis of the fast-start escape response of the least killifish, Heterandria formosa

Mike Fleuren, Johan L. van Leeuwen*, Elsa M. Quicazan-Rubio, Remco P.M. Pieters, Bart J.A. Pollux, Cees J. Voesenek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Fish make C-starts to evade predator strikes. Double-bend (DB) C-starts consist of three stages: Stage 1, in which the fish rapidly bends into a C-shape; Stage 2, in which the fish bends in the opposite direction; and a variable Stage 3. In single-bend (SB) C-starts, the fish immediately straightens after Stage 1. Despite fish moving in threedimensional (3D) space, fast-start responses of adult fish have mainly been studied in a horizontal plane. Using automated 3D tracking of multi-camera high-speed video sequences, we show that both SB and DB fast-starts by adult female least killifish (Heterandria formosa) often contain a significant vertical velocity component, and large changes in pitch (DB up to 43 deg) and roll (DB up to 77 deg) angles. Upwards and downwards elevation changes are correlated with changes in pitch angle of the head; movement in the horizontal plane is correlated with changes in yaw angle of the head. With respect to the stimulus, escape heading correlates with the elevation of the fish at the onset of motion. Irrespective of the initial orientation, fish can escape in any horizontal direction. In many cases, the centre of mass barely accelerates during Stage 1. However, it does accelerate in the final direction of the escape in other instances, indicating that Stage 1 can serve a propulsive role in addition to its preparatory role for Stage 2. Our findings highlight the importance of large-scale 3D analyses of fast-start manoeuvres of adult fish in uncovering the versatility of fish escape repertoire.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb168609
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • 3D tracking
  • Biomechanics
  • C-start
  • Fish behaviour
  • Poeciliidae
  • Swimming


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