An information-theoretic study of fish swimming in the wake of a pitching airfoil

Peng Zhang, Elizabeth Krasner, Sean D. Peterson, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Swimming in schools affords several advantages for fish, including enhanced ability to escape from predators, searching for food, and finding correct migratory routes. However, the role of hydrodynamics in coordinated swimming is still not fully understood due to a lack of data-driven approaches to disentangle causes from effects. In an effort to elucidate the mechanisms underlying fish schooling, we propose an empirical study that integrates information theory and experimental biology. We studied the interactions between an actively pitching airfoil and a fish swimming in a flow. The pitching frequency of the airfoil was varied randomly over time, eliciting an information-rich interaction between the airfoil and the fish. Within an information-theoretic framework, we examined the information content of fish tail beating and information transfer from the airfoil to the fish. The proposed framework may help improve our understanding of the role of hydrodynamics in fish swimming, thereby supporting hypothesis-driven studies on the hydrodynamic advantages of fish schooling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-46
Number of pages12
JournalPhysica D: Nonlinear Phenomena
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • Fish schooling
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Information theory
  • Time series
  • Transfer entropy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Applied Mathematics


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