Stability and procured instability characterize two opposing types of swimming, steady and maneuvering, respectively. Fins can be used to manipulate flow to adjust stability during swimming maneuvers either actively using muscle control or passively by structural control. The function of the dorsal fins during turning maneuvering in two shark species with different swimming modes is investigated here using musculoskeletal anatomy and muscle function. White-spotted bamboo sharks are a benthic species that inhabits complex reef habitats and thus have high requirements for maneuverability. Spiny dogfish occupy a variety of coastal and continental shelf habitats and spend relatively more time cruising in open water. These species differ in dorsal fin morphology and fin position along the body. Bamboo sharks have a larger second dorsal fin area and proportionally more muscle insertion into both dorsal fins. The basal and radial pterygiophores are plate-like structures in spiny dogfish and are nearly indistinguishable from one another. In contrast, bamboo sharks lack basal pterygiophores, while the radial pterygiophores form two rows of elongated rectangular elements that articulate with one another. The dorsal fin muscles are composed of a large muscle mass that extends over the ceratotrichia overlying the radials in spiny dogfish. However, in bamboo sharks, the muscle mass is divided into multiple distinct muscles that insert onto the ceratotrichia. During turning maneuvers, the dorsal fin muscles are active in both species with no differences in onset between fin sides. Spiny dogfish have longer burst durations on the outer fin side, which is consistent with opposing resistance to the medium. In bamboo sharks, bilateral activation of the dorsal in muscles could also be stiffening the fin throughout the turn. Thus, dogfish sharks passively stiffen the dorsal fin structurally and functionally, while bamboo sharks have more flexible dorsal fins, which result from a steady swimming trade off.
Maia, Anabela and Wilga, Cheryl, "Comparative anatomy and dorsal fin muscle activity during turning maneuvers in two shark species" (2013). Faculty Research & Creative Activity. Paper 295.