Ontogeny of Swimming Movements in the Catfish Clarias gariepinus

Quentin Mauguit1, *, Vincent Gennotte2, Christophe Becco3, Etienne Baras4, Nicolas Vandewalle3, Pierre Vandewalle1
1 Functional and Evolutive Morphology Laboratory, University of Liège, Belgium
2 CEFRA, University of Liège, Belgium
3 GRASP, University of Liège, Belgium
4 IRD-GAMET Montpellier, France

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© 2010 Mauguit et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Functional and Evolutive Morphology Laboratory, University of Liège, Allée de la Chimie 3 Bât B6c, 4000 Liège, Belgium; Tel: +3243665033; E-mail:


The swimming movements of C. gariepinus larvae were recorded with a high-speed camera (400, 500 and 800 fps) from 0 to 336 hours post-hatching. Movements of adult fish were also recorded to provide information on the last developmental stage. Seven landmarks positioned on the fish midline were used during tail beating to determine various parameters during ontogeny and, on the basis of these parameters, to describe the first appearance of swimming movements and their development and efficiency during growth.

Larvae were unable to swim at hatching (4 mm total length). Swimming movements were established at 48 hours posthatching when the fish measured between 7 and 8 mm total length and the yolk sac was more than 95% absorbed. At this stage, lateral excursion of the head appeared strongly reduced (from 13% to 6% of the total length). The efficiency of swimming movements increased throughout ontogeny, as did the homogeneity of the speed of the propulsive wave. Spontaneous swimming speed of 1 to 10 TLs-1 were observed in early stage (8-12 hPH). The various speed induced significant variations in parameters such as the amplitude of lateral head movements, swimming efficiency, and body rigidity. No major change was observed at the theoretical flow-regime transition.