Using three different swimming velocities and a school size of eight roach Rutilus rutilus, individual intra-school position and tail beat frequency were examined in a flume tank. Tail beat frequency was determined in defined leading and trailing positions. Individual roach showed consistent intra-school positional preferences which implied a sustained positional pattern where certain individuals took up front positions whereas other individuals swam in the rear part of the school. The positional preferences could not be attributed to inter-individual differences of the eight roach in terms of total length, mass or condition factor. At the tested swimming velocities of 2, 3 and 4 LT s−1, roach in trailing positions swam with tail beat frequencies reduced by 7·3, 11·9 and 11·6%, respectively, compared to roach in leading positions. These results suggested that roach situated in trailing positions experienced energetic savings due to hydrodynamic interactions at a wide range of swimming velocities. This may be important during migrations or when a school of roach is holding its position against the current in a lotic habitat. The observed sustained positional pattern combined with a hydrodynamic advantage in trailing positions would indicate that these energetic savings might not be evenly shared among schoolmates of roach. A positive correlation between swimming velocity and stride length was found. The present study, however, does not support any conclusions concerning these findings.
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