Billfishes are considered to be among the fastest swimmers in the oceans. Previous studies have estimated maximum speed of sailfish and black marlin at around 35 m s−1 but theoretical work on cavitation predicts that such extreme speed is unlikely. Here we investigated maximum speed of sailfish, and three other large marine pelagic predatory fish species, by measuring the twitch contraction time of anaerobic swimming muscle. The highest estimated maximum swimming speeds were found in sailfish (8.3±1.4 m s−1), followed by barracuda (6.2±1.0 m s−1), little tunny (5.6±0.2 m s−1) and dorado (4.0±0.9 m s−1), although size-corrected performance was highest in little tunny and lowest in sailfish. Contrary to previously reported estimates, our results suggest that sailfish are incapable of exceeding swimming speeds of 10-15 m s−1, which corresponds to the speed at which cavitation are predicted to occur, with destructive consequences for fin tissues.
- Received June 1, 2016.
- Accepted August 16, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd
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