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  1. Many fishes employ distinct swimming modes for routine swimming and predator escape. These steady and escape swimming modes are characterized by dramatically differing body kinematics that lead to context-adaptive differences in swimming performance. Physonect siphonophores, such as Nanomia bijuga , are colonial cnidarians that produce multiple jets for propulsion using swimming subunits called nectophores. Physonect siphonophores employ distinct routine and steady escape behaviors but–in contrast to fishes–do so using a decentralized propulsion system that allows them to alter the timing of thrust production, producing thrust either synchronously (simultaneously) for escape swimming or asynchronously (in sequence) for routine swimming. The swimming performance of these two swimming modes has not been investigated in siphonophores. In this study, we compare the performances of asynchronous and synchronous swimming in N. bijuga over a range of colony lengths (i.e., numbers of nectophores) by combining experimentally derived swimming parameters with a mechanistic swimming model. We show that synchronous swimming produces higher mean swimming speeds and greater accelerations at the expense of higher costs of transport. High speeds and accelerations during synchronous swimming aid in escaping predators, whereas low energy consumption during asynchronous swimming may benefit N. bijuga during vertical migrations over hundreds of meters depth. Ourmore »results also suggest that when designing underwater vehicles with multiple propulsors, varying the timing of thrust production could provide distinct modes directed toward speed, efficiency, or acceleration.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 6, 2023
  2. Abstract Pyrosomes are widely distributed pelagic tunicates that have the potential to reshape marine food webs when they bloom. However, their grazing preferences and interactions with the background microbial community are poorly understood. This is the first study of the marine microorganisms associated with pyrosomes undertaken to improve the understanding of pyrosome biology, the impact of pyrosome blooms on marine microbial systems, and microbial symbioses with marine animals. The diversity, relative abundance, and taxonomy of pyrosome-associated microorganisms were compared to seawater during a Pyrosoma atlanticum bloom in the Northern California Current System using high-throughput sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene, microscopy, and flow cytometry. We found that pyrosomes harbor a microbiome distinct from the surrounding seawater, which was dominated by a few novel taxa. In addition to the dominant taxa, numerous more rare pyrosome-specific microbial taxa were recovered. Multiple bioluminescent taxa were present in pyrosomes, which may be a source of the iconic pyrosome luminescence. We also discovered free-living marine microorganisms in association with pyrosomes, suggesting that pyrosome feeding impacts all microbial size classes but preferentially removes larger eukaryotic taxa. This study demonstrates that microbial symbionts and microbial prey are central to pyrosome biology. In addition to pyrosome impacts onmore »higher trophic level marine food webs, the work suggests that pyrosomes also alter marine food webs at the microbial level through feeding and seeding of the marine microbial communities with their symbionts. Future efforts to predict pyrosome blooms, and account for their ecosystem impacts, should consider pyrosome interactions with marine microbial communities.« less
  3. Abstract Cnidarian jellyfish can be dominant players in the food webs of highly productive Eastern Boundary Currents (EBC). However, the trophic role of inconspicuous hydromedusae in EBCs has traditionally been overlooked. We collected mesozooplankton from five stations along two cross-shelf transects in the Northern California Current (NCC) during winter and summer of 2018–2019. We analyzed gut contents of 11 hydromedusan species and the prey community to (i) determine prey resource use by hydromedusae and (ii) determine temporal shifts in the trophic niche of hydromedusae, focusing on the two most collected species (Clytia gregaria and Eutonina indicans). Hydromedusae in the NCC fed mostly on copepods, appendicularians and invertebrate larvae. Nonmetric multidimensional scaling of hydromedusan diets showed seasonal shifts in prey resource driven by the abundant C. gregaria, which fed mostly on copepod eggs during winter and fed mostly on appendicularians and copepods during summer. Prey selectivity for copepod eggs increased during winter for C. gregaria and E. indicans. Intriguingly, theoretical ingestion rates show that both species acquire similar amounts of carbon during upwelling and nonupwelling conditions. Hydromedusae’s consistent presence and predation impact across seasons may lead to significant effects in carbon and energy transfer through the NCC food web.
  4. null (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Pulsatile jet propulsion is a common swimming mode used by a diverse array of aquatic taxa from chordates to cnidarians. This mode of locomotion has interested both biologists and engineers for over a century. A central issue to understanding the important features of jet-propelling animals is to determine how the animal interacts with the surrounding fluid. Much of our knowledge of aquatic jet propulsion has come from simple theoretical approximations of both propulsive and resistive forces. Although these models and basic kinematic measurements have contributed greatly, they alone cannot provide the detailed information needed for a comprehensive, mechanistic overview of how jet propulsion functions across multiple taxa, size scales and through development. However, more recently, novel experimental tools such as high-speed 2D and 3D particle image velocimetry have permitted detailed quantification of the fluid dynamics of aquatic jet propulsion. Here, we provide a comparative analysis of a variety of parameters such as efficiency, kinematics and jet parameters, and review how they can aid our understanding of the principles of aquatic jet propulsion. Research on disparate taxa allows comparison of the similarities and differences between them and contributes to a more robust understanding of aquatic jet propulsion.
  5. null (Ed.)
    It has been well documented that animals (and machines) swimming or flying near a solid boundary get a boost in performance. This ground effect is often modelled as an interaction between a mirrored pair of vortices represented by a true vortex and an opposite sign ‘virtual vortex’ on the other side of the wall. However, most animals do not swim near solid surfaces and thus near body vortex–vortex interactions in open-water swimmers have been poorly investigated. In this study, we examine the most energetically efficient metazoan swimmer known to date, the jellyfish Aurelia aurita , to elucidate the role that vortex interactions can play in animals that swim away from solid boundaries. We used high-speed video tracking, laser-based digital particle image velocimetry (dPIV) and an algorithm for extracting pressure fields from flow velocity vectors to quantify swimming performance and the effect of near body vortex–vortex interactions. Here, we show that a vortex ring (stopping vortex), created underneath the animal during the previous swim cycle, is critical for increasing propulsive performance. This well-positioned stopping vortex acts in the same way as a virtual vortex during wall-effect performance enhancement, by helping converge fluid at the underside of the propulsive surface and generatingmore »significantly higher pressures which result in greater thrust. These findings advocate that jellyfish can generate a wall-effect boost in open water by creating what amounts to a ‘virtual wall’ between two real, opposite sign vortex rings. This explains the significant propulsive advantage jellyfish possess over other metazoans and represents important implications for bio-engineered propulsion systems.« less
  6. Jellyfish have provided insight into important components of animal propulsion, such as suction thrust, passive energy recapture, vortex wall effects, and the rotational mechanics of turning. These traits are critically important to jellyfish because they must propel themselves despite severe limitations on force production imposed by rudimentary cnidarian muscular structures. Consequently, jellyfish swimming can occur only by careful orchestration of fluid interactions. Yet these mechanics may be more broadly instructive because they also characterize processes shared with other animal swimmers, whose structural and neurological complexity can obscure these interactions. In comparison with other animal models, the structural simplicity, comparative energetic efficiency, and ease of use in laboratory experimentation allow jellyfish to serve as favorable test subjects for exploration of the hydrodynamic bases of animal propulsion. These same attributes also make jellyfish valuable models for insight into biomimetic or bioinspired engineering of swimming vehicles. Here, we review advances in understanding of propulsive mechanics derived from jellyfish models as a pathway toward the application of animal mechanics to vehicle designs. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Marine Science, Volume 13 is January 3, 2021. Please see for revised estimates.