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Published June 15, 2021 | Published
Journal Article Open

Cool your jets: biological jet propulsion in marine invertebrates


Pulsatile jet propulsion is a common swimming mode used by a diverse array of aquatic taxa from chordates to cnidarians. This mode of locomotion has interested both biologists and engineers for over a century. A central issue to understanding the important features of jet-propelling animals is to determine how the animal interacts with the surrounding fluid. Much of our knowledge of aquatic jet propulsion has come from simple theoretical approximations of both propulsive and resistive forces. Although these models and basic kinematic measurements have contributed greatly, they alone cannot provide the detailed information needed for a comprehensive, mechanistic overview of how jet propulsion functions across multiple taxa, size scales and through development. However, more recently, novel experimental tools such as high-speed 2D and 3D particle image velocimetry have permitted detailed quantification of the fluid dynamics of aquatic jet propulsion. Here, we provide a comparative analysis of a variety of parameters such as efficiency, kinematics and jet parameters, and review how they can aid our understanding of the principles of aquatic jet propulsion. Research on disparate taxa allows comparison of the similarities and differences between them and contributes to a more robust understanding of aquatic jet propulsion.

Additional Information

© 2021. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. We thank the large community or collaborators cited throughout this review that have conducted experimental and modelling studies of jet-propelled organisms. Thank you for your insights that have forwarded our understanding on this widespread mode of propulsion. This work was funded by the National Science Foundation (OCE-1829945, OCE-1829945, CBET-2100156 to S.P.C.; 2100703 to B.J.G.; 2100705 to J.H.C.) and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (8835). The authors declare no competing or financial interests.

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