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Distributed propulsion enables three-dimensional maneuverability in ctenophores

Ctenophores (comb jellies) are the largest organisms which locomote using cilia, with body lengths on the order of centimeters. Flat, paddle-like bundles of millimeter-long cilia (ctenes) are arranged in rows and beat sequentially in metachronal waves to create the fluid flows that enable swimming and feeding. Using behavioral experiments and mathematical modeling, we show that the unique distribution of the ctenes and independent frequency control between paired rows allow ctenophores to reorient in almost any direction within a small space (omnidirectional swimming). This image shows a still frame from a high speed video of a freely swimming adult lobate ctenophore (Bolinopsis vitrea), with metachronal waves clearly present on the ctene rows. Herrera-Amaya, Byron 2023.

Image Credit: 2018 by M.L. Byron

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