Particle Manipulation in Filter-Feeding Fish

More than 25% of the world’s fish catch consists of filter-feeding fish such as menhaden, anchovies, shad, tilapia and carp. Despite their economic and ecological importance, little is known about how they filter their own food from the water. This summer I will be continuing my research to understand how these fish retain tiny food particles, such as suspended algal cells and shrimp-like organisms, without clogging their oral filters. Since the spring of 2016, I have been studying preserved fish heads to determine whether the previous discoveries from Dr. Sanderson’s lab are applicable to food particle movement and retention in diverse fish species. My results thus far have started to make links between my own research (using particles) and previous research done in the lab (mainly using dye to watch how water flows through the mouth), mainly providing evidence for the usage of cross-flow filtration in these fish mouths. For my Honors thesis research this summer and next year, I will be testing our hypotheses on the factors responsible for particle retention in the American shad.

In addition to furthering the scientific knowledge of the mechanisms by which filter-feeding fish retain particles without clogging their rakers, this research has practical application for biotechnology products. In mechanical processes where crossflow filtration is used, there is always the costly issue of clogging. If we can develop a better understanding of how fish can filter without clogging then it is possible that those mechanisms can be applied to industry.

This novel research is rather exciting to me and I am excited to spend another summer working on furthering the knowledge of this particular field of biology!

Filter-feeding mouth position


  1. cataylor says:

    This seems like a really unique project. I especially appreciate how you connected fish filtration to biotechnology- who knew fish’s eating habits were so useful? I was wondering if you plan on looking into the evolutionary function of filter-feeding and its development at all? Just curious, good luck with your project!