Marine Biology

, Volume 158, Issue 11, pp 2541–2554 | Cite as

Metachronal swimming in Antarctic krill: gait kinematics and system design

  • D. W. MurphyEmail author
  • D. R. Webster
  • S. Kawaguchi
  • R. King
  • J. Yen
Original Paper


Metachronal swimming, in which adjacent appendages stroke in sequence, is widespread among crustaceans inhabiting the transitional flow realm in which both viscosity and inertia effects are important. However, the design and operation of this propulsion system in response to various hydrodynamic, energetic, and behavioral needs have not been well investigated. We examine free-swimming Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) as a model species and identify three distinct behavioral swimming gaits. The pleopod kinematics of these gaits, hovering, fast-forward swimming, and upside-down swimming, are quantified via image analysis of high-speed video. Pleopod stroke amplitude and frequency were found to vary significantly among these swimming modes. In order to increase swimming speed, krill were found first to increase stroke amplitude and secondarily to increase beat frequency. The kinematics of these distinct swimming modes provide insight as we consider multi-appendage metachronal swimming from a design standpoint. The ratio of the distance between adjacent appendage bases and appendage length is identified as a key parameter in metachrony, the value of which is constrained to a narrow range for a wide variety of species.


Beat Frequency Antarctic Krill Power Stroke Recovery Stroke Maximum Flow Velocity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by a National Science Foundation East Asia–Pacific Summer Institute Award to D.W.M. and by National Science Foundation grant OCE-0928491 to J.Y. and D.R.W. The authors thank Nadir Kabir and Morgan Stephenson for help with data digitization and Rachel Lasley for help with statistics. All experiments complied with the current laws of the country in which they were performed. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. W. Murphy
    • 1
    Email author
  • D. R. Webster
    • 1
  • S. Kawaguchi
    • 2
  • R. King
    • 2
  • J. Yen
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Civil and Environmental EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Australian Antarctic DivisionKingstonAustralia
  3. 3.School of BiologyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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