Changes in wingstroke kinematics associated with a change in swimming speed in a pteropod mollusk, Clione limacina

Brett G. Szymik, Richard A. Satterlie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


In pteropod mollusks, the gastropod foot has evolved into two broad, wing-like structures that are rhythmically waved through the water for propulsion. The flexibility of the wings lends a tremendous range of motion, an advantage that could be exploited when changing locomotory speed. Here, we investigated the kinematic changes that take place during an increase in swimming speed in the pteropod mollusk Clione limacina. Clione demonstrates two distinct swim speeds: a nearly constant slow swimming behavior and a fast swimming behavior used for escape and hunting. The neural control of Clione's swimming is well documented, as are the neuromuscular changes that bring about Clione's fast swimming. This study examined the kinematics of this swimming behavior at the two speeds. High speed filming was used to obtain 3D data from individuals during both slow and fast swimming. Clione's swimming operates at a low Reynolds number, typically under 200. Within a given swimming speed, we found that wing kinematics are highly consistent from wingbeat to wingbeat, but differ between speeds. The transition to fast swimming sees a significant increase in wing velocity and angle of attack, and range of motion increases as the wings bend more during fast swimming. Clione likely uses a combination of drag-based and unsteady mechanisms for force production at both speeds. The neuromuscular control of Clione?s speed change points to a two-gaited swimming behavior, and we consider the kinematic evidence for Clione's swim speeds being discrete gaits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3935-3947
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Clione limacina
  • Flapping flight
  • Kinematics
  • Pteropod
  • Speed change
  • Swimming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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