Not Just Going with the Flow
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Aquatic animals may seem to slip along with the prevailing
currents, but many have developed body structures that allow them to actively
manipulate their fluid environments. Water is an incompressible substance, so
moving through it requires a lot of energy, and optimizing that flow can help
animals conserve resources. Fish and Lauder use high-tech visualization
techniques to study the active and passive mechanisms marine creatures employ,
from body dimples to slime, to reduce drag. Animals can recapture energy from
their compatriots by slaloming on their wakes. But marine inhabitants must also
balance their stability in the water with their maneuverability, and the
authors discuss special structures on whales and other creatures that aid in
this endeavor. Their work may also lead to future autonomous underwater
vehicles that have improved performance.