Mechanics of undulatory swimming in a frictional fluid

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Ding, Yang
Sharpe, Sarah S.
Masse, Andrew
Goldman, Daniel I.
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The sandfish lizard (Scincus scincus) swims within granular media (sand) using axial body undulations to propel itself without the use of limbs. In previous work we predicted average swimming speed by developing a numerical simulation that incorporated experimentally measured biological kinematics into a multibody sandfish model. The model was coupled to an experimentally validated soft sphere discrete element method simulation of the granular medium. In this paper, we use the simulation to study the detailed mechanics of undulatory swimming in a ‘‘granular frictional fluid’’ and compare the predictions to our previously developed resistive force theory (RFT) which models sand-swimming using empirically determined granular drag laws. The simulation reveals that the forward speed of the center of mass (CoM) oscillates about its average speed in antiphase with head drag. The coupling between overall body motion and body deformation results in a non-trivial pattern in the magnitude of lateral displacement of the segments along the body. The actuator torque and segment power are maximal near the center of the body and decrease to zero toward the head and the tail. Approximately 30% of the net swimming power is dissipated in head drag. The power consumption is proportional to the frequency in the biologically relevant range, which confirms that frictional forces dominate during sand-swimming by the sandfish. Comparison of the segmental forces measured in simulation with the force on a laterally oscillating rod reveals that a granular hysteresis effect causes the overestimation of the body thrust forces in the RFT. Our models provide detailed testable predictions for biological locomotion in a granular environment.
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