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Bending rules for animal propulsion

Lucas, Kelsey N. and Johnson, Nathan and Beaulieu, Wesley T. and Cathcart, Eric and Tirrell, Gregory and Colin, Sean P. and Gemmell, Brad J. and Dabiri, John O. and Costello, John H. (2014) Bending rules for animal propulsion. Nature Communications, 5 (2). Art. No. 3293. ISSN 2041-1723.

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Animal propulsors such as wings and fins bend during motion and these bending patterns are believed to contribute to the high efficiency of animal movements compared with those of man-made designs. However, efforts to implement flexible designs have been met with contradictory performance results. Consequently, there is no clear understanding of the role played by propulsor flexibility or, more fundamentally, how flexible propulsors should be designed for optimal performance. Here we demonstrate that during steady-state motion by a wide range of animals, from fruit flies to humpback whales, operating in either air or water, natural propulsors bend in similar ways within a highly predictable range of characteristic motions. By providing empirical design criteria derived from natural propulsors that have convergently arrived at a limited design space, these results provide a new framework from which to understand and design flexible propulsors.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access
Lucas, Kelsey N.0000-0002-9300-550X
Colin, Sean P.0000-0003-4463-5588
Gemmell, Brad J.0000-0001-9031-6591
Dabiri, John O.0000-0002-6722-9008
Costello, John H.0000-0002-6967-3145
Additional Information:© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. Received 22 May 2013 | Accepted 22 Jan 2014 | Published 18 Feb 2014. This work was supported by an ONR MURI award to J.H.C. (N000140810654) and National Science Foundation Grant OCE 0623508 to J.H.C., S.P.C. and J.O.D. We thank C. Syslo and K. Kiefer for assistance with video collection and A. Shomberg for statistical advice. We also thank photographers for use of their images in Fig. 1: (a) E. Schipul (, (b) M. Baird (Michael L. Baird, flickr., (d) J. Fabrice, (, (e) D. Wrobel, (, (f) E. Van 3000 from in Flanders fields—Belgiquistan—United Tribes of Europe (CC-BY-SA-2.0). We also thank photographers for use of their images in Fig. 5: G. Humes, The US Fish and Wildlife Service, B. Nyman, B. Weinstein, OpenCage and E. Van 3000.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Office of Naval Research (ONR)N000140810654
Subject Keywords:Biological sciences; Zoology
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140417-091627691
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Official Citation:Lucas, K. N., Johnson, N., Beaulieu, W. T., Cathcart, E., Tirrell, G., Colin, S. P., . . . Costello, J. H. (2014). Bending rules for animal propulsion. [Article]. Nat Commun, 5. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4293
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:44999
Deposited By: Jason Perez
Deposited On:18 Apr 2014 23:13
Last Modified:06 Jul 2020 21:27

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