alexa Caudal fin in the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias (Lamnidae): a dynamic propeller for fast, efficient swimming.


Journal of Microbial & Biochemical Technology

Author(s): LinghamSoliar T

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Abstract The caudal peduncle and caudal fin of Carcharodon carcharias together form a dynamic locomotory structure. The caudal peduncle is a highly modified, dorsoventrally compressed and rigid structure that facilitates the oscillations of the caudal fin. Its stiffness appears to be principally achieved by a thick layer of adipose tissue ranging from 28-37\% of its cross-sectional area, reinforced by cross-woven collagen fibers. Numerous overlying layers of collagen fibers of the stratum compactum, oriented in steep left- and right-handed helices (approximately 65 degrees to the shark's long axis), prevent bowstringing of the perimysial fibers, which lie just below the dermal layer. Perimysial fibers, muscles, and the notochord are restricted to the dorsal lobe of the caudal fin and comprise the bulk of its mass. Adipose tissue reinforces the leading edge of the dorsal lobe of the caudal fin and contributes to maintaining the ideal cross-sectional geometry required of an advanced hydrofoil. Most of the mass of the ventral lobe consists of the ceratotrichia or fin rays separated by thin partitions of connective tissue. Dermal fibers of the stratum compactum of the dorsal lobe occur in numerous distinct layers. The layers are more complex than in other sharks and appear to reflect a hierarchical development in C. carcharias. The fiber layer comprises a number of thick fiber bundles along the height of the layer and the layers get thicker deeper into the stratum compactum. Each of these layers alternates with a layer a single fiber-bundle deep, a formation thought to give stability to the stratum compactum and to enable freer movements of the fiber system. In tangential sections of the stratum compactum the fiber bundles in the dorsal lobe can be seen oriented with respect to the long axis of the shark at approximately 55-60 degrees in left- and right-handed helices. Because of the backward sweep of the dorsal lobe (approximately 55 degrees to the shark's long axis) the right-handed fibers also parallel the lobe's long axis. In the dorsal lobe, ceratotrichia are present only along the leading edge (embedded within connective tissue), apparently as reinforcement. Stratum compactum fiber bundles of the ventral lobe, viewed in transverse section, lack the well-ordered distinctive layers of the dorsal lobe, but rather occur as irregularly arranged masses of tightly compacted fiber bundles of various sizes. In tangential sections the fiber bundles are oriented at angles of approximately 60 degrees, generally in one direction, i.e., lacking the left- and right-handed helical pattern. Tensile load tests on the caudal fin indicate high passive resistance to bending by the skin. The shear modulus G showed that the skin's contribution to stiffness (average values from three specimens at radians 0.52 and 1.05) is 33.5\% for the dorsal lobe and 41.8\% for the ventral. The load tests also indicate greater bending stiffness of the ventral lobe compared to the dorsal. Overall, the anatomy and mechanics of the dorsal lobe of C. carcharias facilitate greater control of movement compared to the ventral lobe. The helical fiber architecture near the surface of the caudal fin is analogous to strengthening of a thin cylinder in engineering. High fiber angles along the span of the dorsal lobe are considered ideal for resisting the bending stresses that the lobe is subjected to during the locomotory beat cycle. They are also ideal for storing strain energy during bending of the lobe and consequently may be of value in facilitating the recovery stroke. The complex fiber architecture of the caudal fin and caudal peduncle of C. carcharias provides considerable potential for an elastic mechanism in the animal's swimming motions and consequently for energy conservation. 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc. This article was published in J Morphol and referenced in Journal of Microbial & Biochemical Technology

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