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Locomotion of Gymnarchus niloticus : Experiment and kinematics


In addition to forward undulatory swimming, Gymnarchus niloticus can swim via undulations of the dorsal fin while the body axis remains straight; furthermore, it swims forward and backward in a similar way, which indicates that the undulation of the dorsal fin can simultaneously provide bidirectional propulsive and maneuvering forces with the help of the tail fin. A high-resolution Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) imaging camera system is used to record kinematics of steady swimming as well as maneuvering in G. niloticus. Based on experimental data, this paper discusses the kinematics (cruising speed, wave speed, cycle frequency, amplitude, lateral displacement) of forward as well as backward swimming and maneuvering.

During forward swimming, the propulsive force is generated mainly by undulations of the dorsal fin while the body axis remains straight. The kinematic parameters (wave speed, wavelength, cycle frequency, amplitude) have statistically significant correlations with cruising speed. In addition, the yaw at the head is minimal during steady swimming. From experimental data, the maximal lateral displacement of head is not more than 1% of the body length, while the maximal lateral displacement of the whole body is not more than 5% of the body length. Another important feature is that G. niloticus swims backwards using an undulatory mechanism that resembles the forward undulatory swimming mechanism. In backward swimming, the increase of lateral displacement of the head is comparatively significant; the amplitude profiles of the propulsive wave along the dorsal fin are significantly different from those in forward swimming. When G. niloticus does fast maneuvering, its body is first bent into either a C shape or an S shape, then it is rapidly unwound in a travelling wave fashion. It rarely maneuvers without the help of the tail fin and body bending.

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Correspondence to Fei Li.

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Li, F., Hu, Tj., Wang, Gm. et al. Locomotion of Gymnarchus niloticus : Experiment and kinematics. J Bionic Eng 2, 115–121 (2005).

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