Burst-and-coast swimmers optimize gait by adapting unique intrinsic cycle

G. Li, I. Ashraf, B. François, D. Kolomenskiy, F. Lechenault, R. Godoy-Diana & B. Thiria
Communications Biology 4, 40 (2021)

Body and caudal fin undulations are a widespread locomotion strategy in fish, and their swimming kinematics is usually described by a characteristic frequency and amplitude of the tail-beat oscillation. In some cases, fish use intermittent gaits, where a single frequency is not enough to fully describe their kinematics. Energy efficiency arguments have been invoked in the literature to explain this so-called burst-and-coast regime but well controlled experimental data are scarce. Here we report on an experiment with burst-and-coast swimmers and a numerical model based on the observations to show that : (1) fish modulate a unique intrinsic cycle to sustain the demanded speed by modifying the bursting to coasting ratio while maintaining the duration of the cycle nearly constant ; and (2) the chosen kinematics correspond to energy-saving gaits over the range of swimming speeds tested.

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