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'Twilight Zone' Fish Swim Silently With Forked Tails, Study Reveals

First Posted: Jan 21, 2016 04:09 PM EST

Scientists have found a new technique to predict which reef fish can survive natural disaster like cyclones and coral bleaching, according to a study. The researchers found that tail shape can help determine whether a fish will survive across various water depths.

"We found that the 'caudal fin aspect ratio', which measures the shape of the fishes tail, is the best predictor of which fish can live in a range of deep and shallow reefs," Dr. Tom Bridge, lead author of the study from James Cook University, said in a news release. "Fishes with more forked tails are significantly more likely to be found in both shallow and deep habitats than species with more rounded tails."

The researchers are not certain why this is the case, however, they believe that the forked tail allows fish to swim more "silently." This type of swimming is specifically important in deep habitats, where there are low levels of light and energy waves. Many species rely on changes in the water pressure so that they can avoid predators and capture, according to the researchers.

"Identifying which species can occur over a broad depth range is important for understanding which fish are more vulnerable to local population declines and extinction, particularly from disturbances such as cyclones and coral bleaching events," said Dr. Osmar Luiz, coauthor of the study from Macquarie University.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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