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Published October 20, 2020 | Supplemental Material + Published
Journal Article Open

The role of suction thrust in the metachronal paddles of swimming invertebrates


An abundance of swimming animals have converged upon a common swimming strategy using multiple propulsors coordinated as metachronal waves. The shared kinematics suggest that even morphologically and systematically diverse animals use similar fluid dynamic relationships to generate swimming thrust. We quantified the kinematics and hydrodynamics of a diverse group of small swimming animals who use multiple propulsors, e.g. limbs or ctenes, which move with antiplectic metachronal waves to generate thrust. Here we show that even at these relatively small scales the bending movements of limbs and ctenes conform to the patterns observed for much larger swimming animals. We show that, like other swimming animals, the propulsors of these metachronal swimmers rely on generating negative pressure along their surfaces to generate forward thrust (i.e., suction thrust). Relying on negative pressure, as opposed to high pushing pressure, facilitates metachronal waves and enables these swimmers to exploit readily produced hydrodynamic structures. Understanding the role of negative pressure fields in metachronal swimmers may provide clues about the hydrodynamic traits shared by swimming and flying animals.

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© The Author(s) 2020. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. Received 22 April 2020. Accepted 06 October 2020. Published 20 October 2020. This work was funded by National Science Foundation (NSF OCE 1829913 to SPC), the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (to BJG) and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (8835 to KRS). The work was also supported by the Roger Williams Foundation to Promote Scholarship and Teaching. Author Contributions. S.P.C. wrote and revised the manuscript, conceived, designed and conducted the experiments, analyzed that data. J.H.C. revised the manuscript, conceived, designed and conducted the experiments. K.R.S. revised the manuscript, conceived, designed and conducted the experiments. B.J.G. revised the manuscript, conceived, designed and conducted the experiments. J.O.D. revised the manuscript, analyzed data. K.T.D. analyzed data. The authors declare no competing interests.

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