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Proc Biol Sci. Mar 22, 2004; 271(1539): 647–653.
PMCID: PMC1691636

'Optimal' vortex rings and aquatic propulsion mechanisms.


Fishes swim by flapping their tail and other fins. Other sea creatures, such as squid and salps, eject fluid intermittently as a jet. We discuss the fluid mechanics behind these propulsion mechanisms and show that these animals produce optimal vortex rings, which give the maximum thrust for a given energy input. We show that fishes optimize both their steady swimming efficiency and their ability to accelerate and turn by producing an individual optimal ring with each flap of the tail or fin. Salps produce vortex rings directly by ejecting a volume of fluid through a rear orifice, and these are also optimal. An important implication of this paper is that the repetition of vortex production is not necessary for an individual vortex to have the 'optimal' characteristics.

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Selected References

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Articles from Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences are provided here courtesy of The Royal Society


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