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Published March 2024 | Published
Journal Article

Turning kinematics of the scyphomedusa Aurelia aurita

  • 1. ROR icon California Institute of Technology


Scyphomedusae are widespread in the oceans and their swimming has provided valuable insights into the hydrodynamics of animal propulsion. Most of this research has focused on symmetrical, linear swimming. However, in nature, medusae typically swim circuitous, nonlinear paths involving frequent turns. Here we describe swimming turns by the scyphomedusa Aurelia aurita during which asymmetric bell margin motions produce rotation around a linearly translating body center. These jellyfish 'skid' through turns and the degree of asynchrony between opposite bell margins is an approximate predictor of turn magnitude during a pulsation cycle. The underlying neuromechanical organization of bell contraction contributes substantially to asynchronous bell motions and inserts a stochastic rotational component into the directionality of scyphomedusan swimming. These mechanics are important for natural populations because asynchronous bell contraction patterns are common in situ and result in frequent turns by naturally swimming medusae.

Copyright and License

© 2024 IOP Publishing Ltd.


We wish to thank the New England Aquarium (Protocol 2022-14 to JHC) for generously providing Aurelia aurita medusae for laboratory work.


We gratefully acknowledge the US NSF (CBET-2100705, IOS-2114171 to JHC, CBET-2100156, IOS-2114169 to SPC, CBET-2100703 to BJG, CBET-210020, RAISE IOS-2034043 to EK) and the US ONR (N00014-23-1-2754 to JHC, N00014-22-1-2655, N00014-19-1-2035, N00014-19-1-2035 to EK).


Data Availability

All data that support the findings of this study are included within the article (and any supplementary files). Data will be available from 01 January 2026.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional details

February 6, 2024
February 6, 2024