Energy Saving


Full Screen Image – Lion’s Mane Jellyfish, Ardmair Bay, Highland Scotland ©Nick Sidle

A new study published this month in the journal ‘Nature Communications’ completely rewrites ideas about jellyfish movement;

Suction-based propulsion as a basis for efficient animal swimming

What the scientists have discovered, as the name of their paper suggests, is that instead of pushing themselves along using positive pressure behind them, as in most propulsion systems including swimming, jellyfish (and Lampreys) create a lower pressure ahead of their direction of travel and so are sucked forwards and that this is one of the most energy efficient systems that can be achieved. In the long term, it could even provide a model for lower energy technologies to power ships and submarines. If we could master it, it might even be a way of raising human performance in Olympic swimming events but somehow I can’t see top athletes plunging into the pool gripping a high technology straw between their teeth any time soon. More sensibly though, given the insight, it could lead to a recognition of more efficient movements in human swimming although collectively we have as a species had quite a long time to get it right through trial and error, even without the research.

The Lion’s Mane is a jellyfish that can be seen regularly around the North West coast of Scotland. It is the species which is the villain in the Sherlock Holmes story ‘The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane’. Presumably since it is supposed to be a mystery at the start of the tale, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle relied on not enough of his readers making the connection from the title, apologies if I’ve given the game away for anyone who has not read it. A bonus piece of Sherlock Holmes trivia  for anyone who is interested, although that may be a limited audience, ‘The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane’ is one of only two stories written as being narrated by Holmes himself, not Dr Watson. The other is ‘The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier’.


Marine Scotland gallery

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish – Cyanea capillata