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Bioinspir Biomim. 2009 Mar;4(1):015004. doi: 10.1088/1748-3182/4/1/015004. Epub 2009 Mar 4.

Biological implications of the hydrodynamics of swimming at or near the surface and in shallow water.

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Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


The origins and effects of wave drag at and near the surface and in shallow water are discussed in terms of the dispersive waves generated by streamlined technical bodies of revolution and by semi-aquatic and aquatic animals with a view to bearing on issues regarding the design and function of autonomous surface and underwater vehicles. A simple two-dimensional model based on energy flux, allowing assessment of drag and its associated wave amplitude, is applied to surface swimming in Lesser Scaup ducks and is in good agreement with measured values. It is argued that hydrodynamic limitations to swimming at speeds associated with the critical Froude number ( approximately 0.5) and hull speed do not necessarily set biological limitations as most behaviours occur well below the hull speed. From a comparative standpoint, the need for studies on the hull displacement of different forms is emphasized. For forms in surface proximity, drag is a function of both Froude and Reynolds numbers. Whilst the depth dependence of wave drag is not particularly sensitive to Reynolds number, its magnitude is, with smaller and slower forms subject to relatively less drag augmentation than larger, faster forms that generate additional resistance due to ventilation and spray. A quasi-steady approach to the hydrodynamics of swimming in shallow water identifies substantial drag increases relative to the deeply submerged case at Froude numbers of about 0.9 that could limit the performance of semi-aquatic and aquatic animals and autonomous vehicles. A comparative assessment of fast-starting trout and upside down catfish shows that the energy losses of fast-starting fish are likely to be less for fish in surface proximity in deep water than for those in shallow water. Further work on unsteady swimming in both circumstances is encouraged. Finally, perspectives are offered as to how autonomous surface and underwater vehicles in surface proximity and shallow water could function to avoid prohibitive hydrodynamic resistance, thereby increasing their operational life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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