A new propulsion enhancement mechanism in metachronal rowing at intermediate Reynolds numbers

Seth Lionetti, Zhipeng Lou, Adrian Herrera-Amaya, Margaret L. Byron, Chengyu Li

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Metachronal rowing is a biological propulsion mechanism employed by many swimming invertebrates (e.g. copepods, ctenophores, krill and shrimp). Animals that swim using this mechanism feature rows of appendages that oscillate in a coordinated wave. In this study, we used observations of a swimming ctenophore (comb jelly) to examine the hydrodynamic performance and vortex dynamics associated with metachronal rowing. We first reconstructed the beating kinematics of ctenophore appendages based on a high-speed video of a metachronally coordinated row. Following the reconstruction, two numerical models were developed and simulated using an in-house immersed-boundary-method-based computational fluid dynamics solver. The two models included the original geometry (16 appendages in a row) and a sparse geometry (8 appendages, formed by removing every other appendage along the row). We found that appendage tip vortex interactions contribute to hydrodynamic performance via a vortex-weakening mechanism. Through this mechanism, appendage tip vortices are significantly weakened during the drag-producing recovery stroke. As a result, the swimming ctenophore produces less overall drag, and its thrust-to-power ratio is significantly improved (up to 55.0 % compared with the sparse model). Our parametric study indicated that such a propulsion enhancement mechanism is less effective at higher Reynolds numbers. Simulations were also used to investigate the effects of substrate curvature on the unsteady hydrodynamics. Our results illustrated that, compared with a flat substrate, arranging appendages on a curved substrate can boost the overall thrust generation by up to 29.5 %. These findings provide new insights into the fluid dynamic principles of propulsion enhancement underlying metachronal rowing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA45
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Nov 10 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics

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