Archerfish coordinate fin-maneuvers with their shots [RESEARCH ARTICLE]
We describe here that characteristic rapid fin maneuvers, most notably of the pectoral and pelvic fins, are precisely coordinated with the release of the jet. We discovered these maneuvers in two fish that had been trained to shoot from fixed positions at targets in different height, whose jets had been characterized in detail and who remained stable during their shots. Based on the findings in these individuals we examined shooting-associated fin-movement in 28 further archerfish of two species that could shoot from freely chosen positions at targets of different height. Slightly before onset of the water jet, at a time when the shooter remains stable, the pectoral fins of all shooters switched from asynchronous low-amplitude beating to a synchronized rapid forward flap. Onset and duration of the forward and subsequent backward flap were robust across all individuals and shooting angles but depended on target height. The pelvic fins are slowly adducted at the start of the jet and stop after its release. All other fins also showed a characteristic sequence of activation, some starting about 0.5 s before the shot. Our findings suggest that shooting-related fin-maneuvers are needed to stabilize the shooter and that they are an important component in the precise and powerful far-distance shooting in archerfish.