Fast-starting for a breath: Air breathing in Hoplosternum littorale

Paolo Domenici , Tommy Norin, Peter G. Bushnell, Jacob Johansen, Peter Vilhelm Skov, John F. Steffensen, Morten Bo S. Svendsen, Augusto Abe

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearch


Fast starts are brief accelerations commonly observed in fish within the context of predator–prey interactions. In typical C-start escape responses, fish react to a threatening stimulus by bending their body into a C-shape. Recently, similar C-starts have been recorded in archerfish stimulated by the fall of a prey item on the water surface, and in tapping motions of goldfish, a behaviour that was interpreted to be food-related. Little is known about C-starts being used outside the context of escaping or feeding. Here, we test the hypothesis that air-breathing fish may use C-starts when gulping air at the surface. Air breathing is a common behaviour in many fish species when exposed to hypoxia, although certain species perform air-breathing in normoxia to fill their
swim bladders for buoyancy control and/or sound transduction. Hoplosternum littorale is an air-breathing freshwater catfish found in South America. Field video observations reveal that their air-breathing behaviour consists of a fast air-gulping motion at the surface, followed by swimming towards the bottom. Using high-speed video in the laboratory, we compared the kinematics of spontaneous air-gulping performed by H. littorale in normoxia, with those of mechanically-triggered C-start escape responses. Our results show that these two behaviours overlap considerably in their kinematics (turning rates and distance covered), suggesting that air breathing in this species is performed using escapelike C-start motions. This demonstrates that C-starts in fish do not need external stimulation and can be spontaneous behaviours used outside the context of predator–prey interactions
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventSociety for Experimental Biology Annual Main Meeting - Salzburg, Austria
Duration: 29 Jun 20122 Jul 2012


ConferenceSociety for Experimental Biology Annual Main Meeting


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