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Published January 2021 | public
Journal Article

The Hydrodynamics of Jellyfish Swimming


Jellyfish have provided insight into important components of animal propulsion, such as suction thrust, passive energy recapture, vortex wall effects, and the rotational mechanics of turning. These traits are critically important to jellyfish because they must propel themselves despite severe limitations on force production imposed by rudimentary cnidarian muscular structures. Consequently, jellyfish swimming can occur only by careful orchestration of fluid interactions. Yet these mechanics may be more broadly instructive because they also characterize processes shared with other animal swimmers, whose structural and neurological complexity can obscure these interactions. In comparison with other animal models, the structural simplicity, comparative energetic efficiency, and ease of use in laboratory experimentation allow jellyfish to serve as favorable test subjects for exploration of the hydrodynamic bases of animal propulsion. These same attributes also make jellyfish valuable models for insight into biomimetic or bioinspired engineeringof swimming vehicles. Here, we review advances in understanding of propulsive mechanics derived from jellyfish models as a pathway toward the application of animal mechanics to vehicle designs.

Additional Information

© 2021 by Annual Reviews. First published as a Review in Advance on June 29, 2020. We thank the numerous colleagues working at the interface of biology and physics for productive conversations on this topic. We are grateful to an anonymous reviewer and the editorial staff at Annual Reviews for improving the article. Funding was provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (8835), the National Science Foundation (1511721, 1536672) and the Office of Naval Research (N68335-19-C-0303). The authors are not aware of any affiliations, memberships, funding, or financial holdings that might be perceived as affecting the objectivity of this review.

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August 20, 2023
October 20, 2023