Ventilatory modes and mechanics of the hedgehog skate (Leucoraja erinacea): Testing the continuous flow model

Adam P. Summers, Lara A. Ferry-Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The movement of water across the gills of non-ramventilating fishes involves the action of two pumps: a pressure pump that pushes water across the gills from the oropharyngeal to the parabranchial cavity, and a suction pump that draws water across the gills from the oropharyngeal into the parabranchial cavity. Together, the two are thought to keep water flowing continuously anteroposteriorly through the head of the respiring animal. However, there is evidence that the pressure and suction pumps do not always work in perfect phase in elasmobranch fishes, leading to periods of higher pressure in the parabranchial than in the oropharyngeal cavity. We investigated the existence and consequence of such pressure reversals in the hedgehog skate Leucoraja erinacea using pressure transducers, sonomicrometry and flow visualization including internal visualization using endoscopy. We noted four patterns of respiration in the experimental skates distinguished by the flow pattern at the three openings into the respiratory system: (1) in through the spiracle only, (2) in through the mouth + spiracle, (3) in through the mouth only, and (4) the mouth held open throughout the respiratory cycle. The first two were by far the dominant modes recorded from experimental animals. We determined that pressure reversals exist in the hedgehog skate, and that the gill bars adducted during such pressure reversals. Direct observation confirmed that these pressure reversals do correspond to pulsatile flow across the gills. During mouth+spiracle ventilation the flow completely reversed direction, flowing from the parabranchial chambers back across the gills and into the oropharyngeal cavity. Finally, we addressed the utility of sonomicrometry as a technique for determining kinematics in aquatic animals. Despite some problems involving errors inherent to the system design, we found the technique useful for complementing such techniques as pressure measurements and endoscopy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1577-1587
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Continuous flow model
  • Flow visualization
  • Gill ventilation
  • Hedgehog skate
  • Leucoraja erinacea
  • Pressure reversal
  • Sonomicrometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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