Animals exhibit various physiological and behavioural strategies for minimizing travel costs. Fins of aquatic animals play key roles in efﬁcient travel and, for sharks, the functions of dorsal and pectoral ﬁns are considered well divided: the former assists propulsion and generates lateral hydrodynamic forces during turns and the latter generates vertical forces that offset sharks’ negative buoyancy. Here we show that great hammerhead sharks drastically reconﬁgure the function of these structures, using an exaggerated dorsal ﬁn to generate lift by swimming rolled on their side. Tagged wild sharks spend up to 90% of time swimming at roll angles between 50° and 75°, and hydrodynamic modelling shows that doing so reduces drag—and in turn, the cost of transport—by around 10% compared with traditional upright swimming. Employment of such a strongly selected feature for such a unique purpose raises interesting questions about evolutionary pathways to hydrodynamic adaptations, and our perception of form and function.
Nicholas L. Payne, Gil Iosilevskii, Adam Barnett, Chris Fischer, Rachel T. Graham, Adrian C. Gleiss & Yuuki Y. Watanabe