Scientists revealed the special trick behind efficient swimmers, and that jellyfish movement is cleverer than we thought by using a technique not yet explored.
- Researchers at Stanford University assumed the movements of jellyfish were misinterpreted
- They performed an experiment with cameras, lasers, and tiny glass beads to track their motions
- Humans swim through the high-pressure points created by pushing at the water
- Jellyfish swim through the low-pressure points created by suction, like a vortex
Researchers at the University of Stanford suspected the misinterpretation of motion for both jellyfish and lampreys. They’re exceptionally efficient swimmers, that can travel for long distances and consume very little energy. Until now, it was believed that they push themselves through waters, but, in fact, they actually pull themselves forward.
When humans swim, they create high pressure points through the fact that they kick and essentially push at the liquid around them. This results in an intense consumption of energy. While it was believed that jellyfish had a similar manner, it was showed that their method is far better. The marine creatures instead suck the water ahead of them, propelling them forward.
John Dabiri, who authored the study and is a professor of environmental and mechanical engineering, performed an experiment meant to track their motions. Due to the fact that there are far too many molecules in liquids to track them, he filled a water tank with millions of tiny glass beads. This allowed him to ascertain the patterns of motion.
He set up high-speed cameras and lasers to further monitor the movements of jellyfish. As the marine creatures swam through the tank, their paths were tracked through the glass beads. It showed that they don’t move through the high-pressure points created by pushing. Instead, jellyfish and lampreys propel themselves forward by the low-pressure points they create ahead of them by suction.
According to Dabiri, this “confounds assumptions”. Instead of actually pushing through the water, jellyfish have a much more efficient system. Through their undulations, they create vortexes which travel down the length of their bodies. The low pressure points in the middle of those vortexes create the pulling action. It’s similar to how tornados or hurricanes work.
Due to these pockets, the animals are essentially pulled through them and expelled forward. It’s far more efficient were it concerns energy. There is very little wasted. Every single minimal movement, pulsing, or undulation results in the maximum amount of travel through the waters.
It took three years to take the study from assumption, to research, to practice, and, now, to conclusion. Dabiri claims that this could be an excellent source of inspiration for future marine vehicles. It could result in a rethinking of the evolutionary adaptations of jellyfish and lampreys, along with different estimations for technology.
Perhaps the technique could be adapted to biomimetic vehicles. Nature has proven itself time and time again as a beautiful inspiration for modern technology.
Image source: flickr.com