A Caltech Library Service

How the bending kinematics of swimming lampreys build negative pressure fields for suction thrust

Gemmell, Brad J. and Fogerson, Stephanie M. and Costello, John H. and Morgan, Jennifer R. and Dabiri, John O. and Colin, Sean P. (2016) How the bending kinematics of swimming lampreys build negative pressure fields for suction thrust. Journal of Experimental Biology, 219 (24). pp. 3884-3895. ISSN 0022-0949. doi:10.1242/jeb.144642.

[img] PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.

[img] PDF - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Swimming animals commonly bend their bodies to generate thrust. For undulating animals such as eels and lampreys, their bodies bend in the form of waves that travel from head to tail. These kinematics accelerate the flow of adjacent fluids, which alters the pressure field in a manner that generates thrust. We used a comparative approach to evaluate the cause-and-effect relationships in this process by quantifying the hydrodynamic effects of body kinematics at the body–fluid interface of the lamprey, Petromyzon marinus, during steady-state swimming. We compared the kinematics and hydrodynamics of healthy control lampreys to lampreys whose spinal cord had been transected mid-body, resulting in passive kinematics along the posterior half of their body. Using high-speed particle image velocimetry (PIV) and a method for quantifying pressure fields, we detail how the active bending kinematics of the control lampreys were crucial for setting up strong negative pressure fields (relative to ambient fields) that generated high-thrust regions at the bends as they traveled all along the body. The passive kinematics of the transected lamprey were only able to generate significant thrust at the tail, relying on positive pressure fields. These different pressure and thrust scenarios are due to differences in how active versus passive body waves generated and controlled vorticity. This demonstrates why it is more effective for undulating lampreys to pull, rather than push, themselves through the fluid.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Information
Gemmell, Brad J.0000-0001-9031-6591
Costello, John H.0000-0002-6967-3145
Dabiri, John O.0000-0002-6722-9008
Colin, Sean P.0000-0003-4463-5588
Additional Information:© 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd Received June 14, 2016. Accepted September 30, 2016. Published online December 14, 2016. We thank Eric Tytell and Kelsey Lucas for their insightful comments and discussion on the manuscript. This work was funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) CBET grant awarded to S.P.C., J.H.C., B.J.G. and J.O.D. (award numbers 1510929, 1511996), by the Marine Biological Laboratory (J.R.M.) and by the Roger Williams University Foundation to Promote Teaching and Scholarship. Author contributions: B.J.G., J.H.C., J.R.M. and S.P.C. conceived of and designed the study; J.R.M. and S.M.F. carried out transection operations; B.J.G. carried out experimental work; J.O.D. and S.P.C. carried out data analysis; S.P.C. wrote the manuscript; B.J.G., J.H.C., J.O.D., J.R.M. and S.P.C. revised the manuscript. All authors gave final approval for publication. The authors declare no competing or financial interests.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Marine Biological LaboratoryUNSPECIFIED
Roger Williams University Foundation to Promote Teaching and ScholarshipUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Hydrodynamics, Biomechanics, Propulsion, Fish, Vortex, Flexible bending
Issue or Number:24
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20190422-155746636
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:How the bending kinematics of swimming lampreys build negative pressure fields for suction thrust Brad J. Gemmell, Stephanie M. Fogerson, John H. Costello, Jennifer R. Morgan, John O. Dabiri, Sean P. Colin Journal of Experimental Biology 2016 219: 3884-3895; doi: 10.1242/jeb.144642
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:94875
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:23 Apr 2019 16:33
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 17:08

Repository Staff Only: item control page