Nautilus Swimming

The shellbound chambered nautilus is a champion of underwater jet propulsion. It can eke out efficiencies as high as 75%, far outclassing other jet-based swimmers like squid, salps, and jellyfish. That high efficiency is especially important for the nautilus, which spends a great deal of time at depths where the oxygen needed to fuel movement is in short supply. To get around, the nautilus draws water in through an enlarged orifice, then squirts it out little by little. Its this asymmetry between drawing in and expending that keeps efficiency high. By releasing a jet slower and at lower speeds, the nautilus is able to reduce wasteful losses to friction and thereby keep the efficiency high. The drawback is that the nautilus swims relatively slowly at an average of around 8 centimeters–less than one body length–per second. (Image credit: Simon and Simon Photography/University of Leeds; research credit: T. Neil and G. Askew; via NYTimes; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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