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Fast-swimming hydromedusae exploit velar kinematics to form an optimal vortex wake

Dabiri, John O. and Colin, Sean P. and Costello, John H. (2006) Fast-swimming hydromedusae exploit velar kinematics to form an optimal vortex wake. Journal of Experimental Biology, 209 (11). pp. 2025-2033. ISSN 0022-0949. doi:10.1242/jeb.02242.

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Fast-swimming hydromedusan jellyfish possess a characteristic funnel-shaped velum at the exit of their oral cavity that interacts with the pulsed jets of water ejected during swimming motions. It has been previously assumed that the velum primarily serves to augment swimming thrust by constricting the ejected flow in order to produce higher jet velocities. This paper presents high-speed video and dye-flow visualizations of free-swimming Nemopsis bachei hydromedusae, which instead indicate that the time-dependent velar kinematics observed during the swimming cycle primarily serve to optimize vortices formed by the ejected water rather than to affect the speed of the ejected flow. Optimal vortex formation is favorable in fast-swimming jellyfish because, unlike the jet funnelling mechanism, it allows for the minimization of energy costs while maximizing thrust forces. However, the vortex `formation number' corresponding to optimality in N. bachei is substantially greater than the value of 4 found in previous engineering studies of pulsed jets from rigid tubes. The increased optimal vortex formation number is attributable to the transient velar kinematics exhibited by the animals. A recently developed model for instantaneous forces generated during swimming motions is implemented to demonstrate that transient velar kinematics are required in order to achieve the measured swimming trajectories. The presence of velar structures in fast-swimming jellyfish and the occurrence of similar jet-regulating mechanisms in other jet-propelled swimmers (e.g. the funnel of squid) appear to be a primary factor contributing to success of fast-swimming jetters, despite their primitive body plans.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription PublisherSupporting Information
Dabiri, John O.0000-0002-6722-9008
Colin, Sean P.0000-0003-4463-5588
Costello, John H.0000-0002-6967-3145
Additional Information:© The Company of Biologists Ltd 2006. Accepted 27 March 2006. First published online May 18, 2006. This research is supported in part by National Science Foundation Grants OCE-0116236 and OCE-0350834 (to J.H.C.) and OCE-0351398 (to S.P.C.). The authors thank the anonymous reviewers of the manuscript for their thorough and insightful comments. Supplementary material available online at
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Subject Keywords:locomotion; wake; vortices; jellyfish; Nemopsis bachei
Issue or Number:11
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20090917-131407982
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Official Citation:Dabiri, John O., Colin, Sean P., Costello, John H. Fast-swimming hydromedusae exploit velar kinematics to form an optimal vortex wake J Exp Biol 2006 209: 2025-2033
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:15918
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:23 Sep 2009 20:12
Last Modified:08 Nov 2021 23:23

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