Starfish Vortices

Starfish larvae, like other microorganisms, use tiny hair-like cilia to move the fluid around them. By beating these cilia in opposite directions on different parts of their bodies, the larvae create vortices, as seen in the flow visualization above. The starfish larvae don’t use these vortices for swimming – to swim, you’d want to push all the fluid in the same direction. Instead the vortices help the larvae feed. The more vortices they create, the more it stirs the fluid around them and draws in algae from far away. The larvae actually switch gears regularly, using few vortices when they want to swim and more when they want to eat. Check out the full video below to see the full explanation and more beautiful footage.  (Image/video credit: W. Gilpin et al.)

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