Swimming performance strongly influences fitness in aquatic organisms and is closely tied to external body morphology. Although this connection has been closely examined at the individual and species level, few studies have focused on this relationship as it pertains to functional group assemblages. Using functional groups based on similarities in habitat use and morphology, I tested the hypothesis that swimming performance can be reliably predicted by functional group composition. I measured swimming performance as burst speed using a simulated predator attack and as prolonged speed using a step-endurance test in a laboratory flume. I measured morphology using geometric morphometric techniques. A difference in swimming behavior in four of the seven species was observed in the step-endurance test. Benthic species exhibited bracing behavior as an alternative to body-caudal fin (BCF) propulsion in the prolonged speed trials. Swimming performance exhibited a weak relationship with functional groups based on habitat or morphology. Rather a species-based model was the best predictor of swimming performance. Although species exhibited variation in swimming performance, body size was the strongest predictor of absolute swimming performance across all models. Relative swimming performance (measured in body lengths/sec) was negatively related to body size. The results of this study suggest that functional groups are not always reliable predictors of performance and they necessitate empirical testing to validate their effectiveness. This study also provides critical swimming performance data for previously unstudied Great Basin fishes which could be valuable for predicting fish passage through culverts, weirs and fish ladders.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Biology



Date Submitted


Document Type





Swimming performance, burst speed, prolonged speed, fish passage, culverts, allometric effects, Great Basin, brown trout, mountain sucker, cutthroat trout, leatherside chub, least chub, longnose dance, speckled dace, mottled sculpin, June sucker, redside shiner



Included in

Biology Commons