Jellyfish and fish solve the challenges of turning dynamics similarly to achieve high maneuverability
Turning maneuvers by aquatic animals are essential for fundamental life functions such as finding food or mates while avoiding predation. However, turning requires resolution of a fundamental dilemma based in rotational mechanics: the force powering a turn (torque) is favored by an expanded body configuration that maximizes lever arm length, yet minimizing the resistance to a turn (the moment of inertia) is favored by a contracted body configuration. How do animals balance these opposing demands? Here, we directly measure instantaneous forces along the bodies of two animal models-the radially symmetric Aurelia aurita jellyfish, and the bilaterally symmetric Danio rerio zebrafish-to evaluate their turning dynamics. Both began turns with a small, rapid shift in body kinematics that preceded major axial rotation. Although small in absolute magnitude, the high fluid accelerations achieved by these initial motions generated powerful pressure gradients that maximized torque at the start of a turn. This pattern allows these animals to initially maximize torque production before major body curvature changes. Both animals then subsequently minimized the moment of inertia, and hence resistance to axial rotation, by body bending. This sequential solution provides insight into the advantages of re-arranging mass by bending during routine swimming turns.
Dabiri, J., Colin, S., Gemmell, B., Lucas, K., Leftwich, M., & Costello, J. (2020). Jellyfish and fish solve the challenges of turning dynamics similarly to achieve high maneuverability. Fluids, 5 (3) https://doi.org/10.3390/fluids5030106
National Science Foundation