Simulations of optimized anguilliform swimming


S. Kern, P. Koumoutsakos, Journal of Experimental Biology, 209, 4841-4857, 2006



he hydrodynamics of anguilliform swimming motions was investigated using three-dimensional simulations of the fluid flow past a self-propelled body. The motion of the body is not specified a priori, but is instead obtained through an evolutionary algorithm used to optimize the swimming efficiency and the burst swimming speed. The results of the present simulations support the hypothesis that anguilliform swimmers modify their kinematics according to different objectives and provide a quantitative analysis of the swimming motion and the forces experienced by the body.

The kinematics of burst swimming is characterized by the large amplitude of the tail undulations while the anterior part of the body remains straight. In contrast, during efficient swimming behavior significant lateral undulation occurs along the entire length of the body. In turn, during burst swimming, the majority of the thrust is generated at the tail, whereas in the efficient swimming mode, in addition to the tail, the middle of the body contributes significantly to the thrust. The burst swimming velocity is 42% higher and the propulsive efficiency is 15% lower than the respective values during efficient swimming.

The wake, for both swimming modes, consists largely of a double row of vortex rings with an axis aligned with the swimming direction. The vortex rings are responsible for producing lateral jets of fluid, which has been documented in prior experimental studies. We note that the primary wake vortices are qualitatively similar in both swimming modes except that the wake vortex rings are stronger and relatively more elongated in the fast swimming mode.

The present results provide quantitative information of three-dimensional fluid-body interactions that may complement related experimental studies. In addition they enable a detailed quantitative analysis, which may be difficult to obtain experimentally, of the different swimming modes linking the kinematics of the motion with the forces acting on the self-propelled body. Finally, the optimization procedure helps to identify, in a systematic fashion, links between swimming motion and biological function.