Kinematic and Dynamic Scaling of Copepod Swimming

Leonid Svetlichny*, Poul S. Larsen, Thomas Kiørboe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewResearchpeer-review

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Calanoid copepods have two swimming gaits, namely cruise swimming that is propelled by the beating of the cephalic feeding appendages and short-lasting jumps that are propelled by the power strokes of the four or five pairs of thoracal swimming legs. The latter may be 100 times faster than the former, and the required forces and power production are consequently much larger. Here, we estimated the magnitude and size scaling of swimming speed, leg beat frequency, forces, power requirements, and energetics of these two propulsion modes. We used data from the literature together with new data to estimate forces by two different approaches in 37 species of calanoid copepods: The direct measurement of forces produced by copepods attached to a tensiometer and the indirect estimation of forces from swimming speed or acceleration in combination with experimentally estimated drag coefficients. Depending on the approach, we found that the propulsive forces, both for cruise swimming and escape jumps, scaled with prosome length (L) to a power between 2 and 3. We further found that power requirements scales for both type of swimming as L3. Finally, we found that the cost of transportation (i.e., calories per unit body mass and distance transported) was higher for swimming-by-jumping than for cruise swimming by a factor of 7 for large copepods but only a factor of 3 for small ones. This may explain why only small cyclopoid copepods can afford this hydrodynamically stealthy transportation mode as their routine, while large copepods are cruise swimmers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number68
Issue number2
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Copepods
  • Cruising
  • Escape swimming
  • Kinematics
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Power
  • Cost of transport


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