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The backflip of the simulated nauplius (Sage Jenson)

simulation and art by Sage Jenson, writing by Kit Kuksenok

The nauplius — or, larval crustacean [1] — moves in one of three ways. Below, for example, is “swimming by vibration,” where the recovery stroke sends the nauplius backwards in what looks like an awkward and inefficient flailing:

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From the supplementary materials for Borg, C. M. A., Bruno, E., & Kiørboe, T. (2012). The kinematics of swimming and relocation jumps in copepod nauplii. PloS one, 7(10), e47486. [2]

Although this “swimming by vibration” is indeed an unsatisfying way to get anywhere, it is actually neither “awkward” nor “inefficient.” Combining swimming and feeding, it involves “rotating feeding appendages at high frequencies” [1]. In this essay, we try to understand how the nauplius moves — by implementing our own simple model.

Another mode of movement, “swimming by jumping,” is subject of the scientific article [2] that we focus on today, and looks rather more…

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