The hydrodynamics of jet propulsion swimming in hatchling and juvenile European common cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis

Nicholas W. Gladman, Graham N. Askew

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Cuttlefish swim using jet propulsion, taking a small volume of fluid into the mantle cavity before it is expelled through the siphon to generate thrust. Jet propulsion swimming has been shown to be more metabolically expensive than undulatory swimming, which has been suggested to be due to the lower efficiency of jet propulsion. The whole cycle propulsive efficiency of cephalopod molluscs ranges from 38-76%, indicating that in some instances jet propulsion can be relatively efficient. Here, we determined the hydrodynamics of hatchling and juvenile cuttlefish during jet propulsion swimming to understand the characteristics of their jets, and whether their whole cycle propulsive efficiency changes during development. Cuttlefish were found to utilise two jet types: isolated jet vortices (termed jet mode I) and elongated jets (leading edge vortex ring followed by a trailing jet; termed jet mode II). The use of these jet modes differed between the age classes, with newly hatched animals nearly exclusively utilising mode I jets, while juveniles showed no strong preferences. Whole cycle propulsive efficiency was found to be high, ranging from 72-80%, and did not differ between age-classes. During development, Strouhal number decreased as Reynolds number increased, which is consistent with animals adjusting their jetting behaviour in order to maximise whole cycle propulsive efficiency and locomotor performance. While jet propulsion swimming can have a relatively high energetic cost, in cuttlefish and nautilus, both neutrally buoyant species, the whole cycle propulsive efficiency is actually relatively high.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb246225
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number18
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 28. Sept 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Cephalopod
  • Ontogeny
  • Vortex rings
  • Whole-cycle propulsive efficiency
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Decapodiformes
  • Animals
  • Sepia
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Swimming


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