Meeting Abstract

S7-2.4  Friday, Jan. 6  The secrets of swimming in sand GOLDMAN, Daniel I.; Georgia Institute of Technology

I will summarize our progress in biological and robotic experiments, and numerical and theoretical models of the locomotion of a sand-swimming lizard, the sandfish (Scincus scincus). We use high speed x-ray imaging to study how the 10 cm-long sandfish swims at 2 body-lengths/sec within sand, a granular material that displays solid and fluid-like behavior. Below the surface the lizard no longer uses limbs for propulsion but generates thrust to overcome drag by propagating an undulatory traveling wave down the body. To predict the sandfish swimming speed in the granular ``frictional fluid", we develop an empirical resistive force model by measuring drag force on a small cylinder oriented at different angles relative to the displacement direction and summing these forces over the animal movement profile. The model correctly predicts the animal's wave efficiency (ratio of forward speed to wave speed) as approximately 0.5. The empirical model agrees with a more detailed numerical simulation: a multi-segment model of the sandfish coupled to a multi-particle discrete element method (DEM) simulation of the granular medium. We use the principles discovered to construct a sand-swimming physical model (a robot) which, like in our empirical and multi-particle numerical model, swims fastest using the preferred sandfish wave pattern. The models predict that motor activation force is independent of swimming speed and increases with increasing depth below the surface. Electromyographic (EMG) measurements of epaxial musculature activity in the swimming lizard are in accord with the model predictions.