• Randall W. Davis


The convergent evolution of a fusiform body shape in aquatic vertebrates decreases drag resulting from the greater density and viscosity of water compared to air. There are two types of drag: pressure drag and friction drag. Pressure drag is greatly reduced by a streamlined or fusiform body shape. Total drag increases with body mass for marine mammals primarily due to friction drag. Active drag of a free-swimming animal is generally assumed to be ~threefold greater than passive drag. The most derived and efficient modes of aquatic locomotion include pelvic oscillation (seals and walruses), pectoral oscillation (sea lions and fur seals), and caudal oscillation (Cetacea and Sirenia). The power generated by the contracting muscles is translated into the power associated with locomotion (thrust × velocity). The energetic cost of swimming in these species is probably 1.6- to 2.6-fold greater than resting metabolism at routine swim speeds. The average minimum cost of transport (COT) for five marine mammal species is similar to the predicted mean minimum COT of quadrupedal running mammals with the same body masses. Despite differences in size, feeding ecology, and diving behavior, the routine swim speeds of most marine mammals fall in the range of 1–3 m s−1.


Locomotion Drag Thrust Energetics Cost of transport Speed Buoyancy 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Randall W. Davis
    • 1
  1. 1.Marine BiologyTexas A&M UniversityGalvestonUSA

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